12 February 1998 :
Q n A with Eric Mlambo and Michael Laban of Mine-Tech.
We are members of a peace club at a school in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and we want to ask you the following questions.
How many dogs do you have on your team?
ERIC: Our demining team has two sniffer dogs.
MICHAEL: The number of dogs used will depend on the job and the type of terrain encountered. A typical dog team is the handler and two dogs. Both dogs will cover the same area at different times, as alone they will not reach the UN humanitarian standard of 99.6%. The dogs are used in a variety of ways, but generally they are used to reduce the area to be cleared by hand, and all areas they have cleared must be backed up by manual clearance to reach the UN Humanitarian standard.
When do you start to demine Dombe?
ERIC: Demining in Dombe started on 10 January.
What is the name of the school in Dombe you are demining?
ERIC: In Dombe centre there is Dombe Primary School which is hot seated.
MICHAEL: This means they have two sets of students using the same classrooms, a morning and an afternoon shift.
From Lycee de Beauregard, France
What is a typical day for a deminer?
MICHAEL: In the field we tend to wake up early and take longer lunches due to the mid day heat (all day heat!). People go to bed early as there is not much to do after dark. These are remote areas so there is no power, there is no alcohol use during an operation, and we keep strictly away from the local population to avoid any altercations. We, and the deminers, cannot afford anything that may detract from their work.
Can you do this as a career or is it always a temporary job?
ERIC: Demining is done as a career as we dont employ make-shift engineers.
How much do you make per month?
MICHAEL: This is specific business information and we do not disclose what individuals make.
Are there many casualties?
ERIC: Casualties are minimised if safety precautions are adhered to at all times.
MICHAEL: I am pleased to say that we did not have a single casualty in Mozambique last year.
How did you get trained for this job?
ERIC: I was trained as a combat engineer in the army but Mine-Tech is now running deminers training courses for its members.
MICHAEL: Mine-Tech runs its own in-house training course for two weeks for all new recruits (who come from all walks of life, including straight out of high school). After that, they are given three months On-Job Training, where they will be placed with an experienced team in the field. Retraining is done constantly before new jobs and occasionally during jobs. For example, if the team finds a different type of mine from what they had been finding the previous week, they may stop and reinforce certain drills specific to this device.
How are the sites to be demined chosen and by whom?
ERIC: The client chooses sites to be demined, preferably those places that are within proximity of water sources, fields and schools.
MICHAEL: Targets are set by the donor or client, depending on the job. (See humanitarian and commercial demining question from before.) With the IHD programme, we select targets in conjunction with the Provincial Demining Commissioner (Snr. Saul) for Manica Province, who gathers his information for priorities from District and community authorities. He, Snr. Saul, will be here in a couple of weeks for an English language course, if you have any questions for him. I will tell you more if you are interested.
Erick Mlambo/Michael Laban
more Q n A from Mozambique