Support: August 10, 2001


Demining has become a big business. It's estimated to cost several hundred million dollars a year. Hard data is hard to come by because in many of the nations with the biggest mine problem, labor is very cheap. Locals are trained and equipped by demining companies to clear the mines. These local deminers get paid a lot less than do those from the west. For example, Kuwait paid some $800 million to mainly Western companies to clear five million Iraqi mines. That's $160 per mine cleared. Most of that expense went to payroll. In countries like Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia (the major locations of uncleared mines), the low local wage rates allows a mine to be cleared for much less than a twenty dollars. The people in these nations need mine detecting equipment and training in how to safely find and remove (or destroy in place) mines. They do not expect Western pay scales, and would rather more locals be trained and paid at local rates so that more mines can be cleared more quickly. One fringe benefit of sending in Western demining companies to closely supervise the mine clearing is that this minimizes the risk of corruption. Just sending money and equipment often sees both disappearing without any mines being cleared. The major source of research on mine clearing is the U.S. Army. Traditionally, the army spent most of its money on minefield breaching (opening a gap in an enemy minefield so that your troops can move through it and attack) and clearing (widening a breach to allow additional traffic through the minefield with less chance of stumbling on a mine that was missed.) Demining, when it took place, often involved civilians and civilian firms. Seeing that most of the mines out there came from communist countries, and that these are the same mines American troops are likely to encounter, Army demining research is in the army's own interest as well as a humanitarian effort. 


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