Around every 22 minutes 1 person somewhere
in the world is killed or injured by a landmine.

One hundred million uncleared landmines lie in the fields and alongside the roads and footpaths of one-third of the countries in the developing world. Claiming over 500 victims a week, landmines are weapons of mass destruction in slow motion.


War, fighting and military actions are horrible, gross and destructive events, which have little or no consideration for the safety of civilians, their property and animals alike. The proliferation and use of mines is completely the blame and fault of the military and their decision makers. It is too easy for an advisor to sit back in the safety and comfort of their offices far away from the war arenas, and not have to concern themselves about the poor rural people who have to face the deadly consequences of their decisions.

The word ‘Mine’ is derived from the Latin word mina which means ‘vein of ore’ and was originally applied to the excavation of minerals from the earth. The term was then borrowed by military engineers, whose job it was to dig landmines in the ground during sieges.

Fig I: A Spiked Caltrop

Modern landmines are explosive traps, but they trace their lineage from non-explosive predecessors such as spikes and stakes used by ancient armies as far back as 2,500 years ago. One of these devices, the four spiked caltrop (see Fig: I), has been closely compared to the present day landmine in a tactical defensive context and design function. It comprises of four spikes, usually made of iron, joined at the centre and arranged so that when thrown on the ground, one spike always points upwards with the other three forming the base. Although caltrops were reported to have been used as far back as the 3rd century BC, the same design is still being used in present day conflicts. With a design almost unchanged in 2,500 years, they may be the longest serving piece of military hardware in existence.

By the 14th century gunpowder was in military use and had a profound effect on all future conflicts. By 1530 experiments had been conducted in the use of landmines in Sicily and southern Italy. These earliest landmines were known as fougasses (see Fig: II) and were essentially an underground cannon that showered rocks and debris over a wide area. Although it had the potential to stop a massed attack it was frequently unreliable and had 2 serious limitations.

Fig II: A Cross Section of a Fougasse

Firstly the gunpowder used was hygroscopic, absorbing water from the air consequently loosing its explosive ability, and secondly fougasses could only be detonated by lighting a powder trail, which was subject to the effects of rain, wind and moisture.

The earliest description of a pressure-operated landmine is provided by the German military historian H. Frieherr von Flemming in 1726. In his book he describes what a fladdermine (literally meaning a flying mine) looked like. “It consisted of a ceramic container with glass and metal fragments embedded in the clay containing 0.90 kilos (2 lb) of gunpowder, buried at a shallow depth in the glacis of a fortress and actuated by someone stepping on it or touching a low strung wire.” Although this was the first reported pressure-operated mine, it was not until the second half of the 19th century that these mines became a regular feature of warfare.

The development of the electrical initiation system in the second half of the 19th century greatly improved the utility of the fougasse by allowing reliable and instant firing. The Russians pioneered the use of electricially-initiated fougasse when it was used during the siege of Silistria 1828 – 1829 but at the time the technical details were kept top secret and not disseminated.

Fig III: A Torpedo fitted with Rains Fuze

The first devices designed to explode on ‘target-contact’ were floating mines first employed by the US Confederate Navy in 1861 (see Fig III). Reference to these mines was made during the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862, where they adapted shells so as to surprise the Union vanguard. They consisted of a steel tank, 122 cm (4 feet) X 91.4 cm (3 feet) broad, and 25 cm (10 inches) deep, which contained scrap metal. The receptacle for the charge was a case of sheet iron with a heavy base, and a strong cap of cast iron connected together by a stout spindle. When the charge exploded, the light sides of the case were blown out, and the top, which was retained in its place by the spindle and base, gave a horizontal direction to the contents of the tank.

Even at that early date, the use of mines raised strong feelings, with many judging them as "unworthy and improper to the conduct of war".  But by the end of the war these mines (or ‘torpedoes’ as both land and water mines were termed during this period) had sunk 29 ships and damaged 14 others. The ability of a cheap mine to destroy an expensive warship was an irresistible economic argument for its deployment.

The Americans are really the first nation to develop and use operational landmines and this is attributed to Brigadier-General Gabriel J. Rains. Rains experimented with booby traps while leading his troops against Indians in Florida in 1840, but without a lot of success. Then in 1862 he ordered his troops to prepare artillery shells so that they could be exploded by pulling trip wires or by being stepped on (see Fig IV). On 4 May 1862, while scouting along a road leading to Yorktown, a horse rider activated one of these landmines becoming the first person killed by a pressure-operated landmine.

Fig IV: An American Civil War Electrically Initiated Mine

During the winter of 1862-63 Rains worked on designing a primer that would ‘explode from the slightest pressure’. After losing the forefinger and thumb of his right hand, he decided to settle for a pressure of 3.1 kilos (7lb). By 1863 his mines were being widely and successfully used throughout that period. The Civil war experience demonstrated the longevity of mines in the ground. In 1960 five landmines with Rains fuses were recovered nearly one hundred years after they were laid – with the powder ‘still quite dangerous’.

Fig V: The Workings of an Electrically Initiated Mine

The British Army was keen to use landmines during their African campaigns in the 1880s. During these wars they used fougasses and tripwire/pressure-operated mines that were generally manufactured in the field. In 1884, following operations in Sudan, General Gordon wrote “Landmines are the thing for defence in the future. We have covered the works with them, and they have done much execution.”

By the 20th century the concept of landmine warfare had permeated through most regular armies. All types of mines were employed during the Russo-Japanese War of 1902-06, including fougasses, electrically- fired observation mines and even electrically- initiated vibration/ pressure-sensitive mines. The later model was a Russian invention that relied upon the depression of a wooden lid to complete an electrical circuit by disturbing a ball-bearing. The electric fuse was housed in a wooden box 60.9 cm (2 ft) square with an explosive charge packed into another wooden box of similar dimensions (See Fig V).


Mines only began to appear on a large scale in 1918, as an answer to another new piece of weaponry; the assault tanks. To combat the growing number and effectiveness of American tanks, the German needed to design new weapons. Initially they used artillery shells dug into the ground and covered with wooden boards, to give it a wide pressure plate. But these improvised mines proved to be unreliable and time consuming to lay. In early 1918 the produced a mine that could effectively be used against tanks.

The anti-tank mine they produced was a wooden box, 45.7 cm (18 inches) X 35.5 cm (14 inches) X 20.3 cm (8 inches) high which contained 6.3 kilos (14 LB) of guncotton. It was triggered by depressing a hinged lid that operated a firing lever connected to a detonator. This anti-tank mine could be initiated by 45.3 kilos (100 LB)of pressure and therefore could also be triggered by a person on foot.

Fig VI: A German anti-tank mine

Early in the war tripwire activated mines were laced within wire entanglements but because they tended to be as dangerous for both sides this type of mine laying was phased out. Throughout the war anti-personnel mines and booby traps were laid in abandoned positions in anticipation of an enemy advance. AP mines were also adapted from artillery shells, although the fuses used were manufactured specially for use in this role. The shells were buried vertically with the fuse level to the ground. Such a device would mean certain death for anyone who detonated it and for those close by. The German's used several different types of mines and improvised booby traps during the conflict. The South Africans fighting in the German controlled South-west of Africa were so outraged by the employment of these devices that on several occasions soldiers had to be restrained from killing prisoners who had defended their positions with mines, especially the pipe mine.

A pipe mine was made by packing dynamite into a T piece of ordinary 0.63 cm (1/4 inch) water pipe. A glass tube in the cross piece held the detonating compound. A thin steel rod in the long part of the T had one end resting on the glass tube; the other projected about a 1.27 cm (1/2 inch) above the ground. When stepped on the rod broke the glass tube and detonated the charge. This was one of the first mines designed to maim rather than to kill outright.

Mines as we know them today were actually developed during World War II (1939 – 45) and put to wide use, principally as an anti-tank device. These mines were large, clumsy and easily redeployed by the opposing forces - and often re-laid against the tanks belonging to the original mine layers. For this reason the smaller anti-personnel mine (AP) was developed, designed to prevent enemy soldiers from removing the anti-tank mines (AT). At this time its use was, on the whole, controlled, targeted at soldiers and linked to specific military objectives. 

The Germans entered WW II with just 2 types of anti-tank mines and one anti-personnel mine. By the end of the war they had manufactured 16 different types of anti-tank mines, 10 different types of anti-personnel mines and employed many different types of booby traps (improvised devices). From 1942 they fought almost constantly on the defensive, placing increasing importance on mines as a weapon of attrition and produced 'almost a new arm of warfare'.

In 1940 French troops encountered a new device that leapt out of the ground before detonating. It was nicknamed the 'silent soldier'. The Schrapnellmine was the size of a beer can and was activated by a three-pronged push device or a pull igniter attached to a tripwire. When fired a cannister was launched about one meter in the air by a primary charge before it was detonated by a secondary charge scattering 350 steel balls out to a range of 150 m.

Towards the end of 1944 American soldiers first came across non-metal mines in Lorraine, France. In a single minefield they found 12,000 mines made out of bakelite plastic or wood, which made them not as easy to locate with metal detectors. By 1945 the US Army recorded that mines were responsible for 2.5% of fatalities in combat and for 20.7% of tank losses.

During the WW II hostilities there were many large minefields put down in North Africa to act as impassable barriers. Many of these locations were either unmapped, markers were lost, or sand drifts have tossed them about. Today most of these minefields remain in these hazardous deserts. In Europe landmines were not used extensively until the end of the war, when both sides of the conflict were involved in the dispersement of mines. Minefield clearance is still being undertaken today in places like Holland, while in France land is still claimed by landmines.

Since World War II the proliferation, production, sale and trade in landmines has run out of control. The face of the earth has been scared with more than 400 million mines since 1939, with 65 million of these laid in the last 20 years.

During the Korean War (1951 – 1953) nearly ten different countries relied on anti-personnel mines for defence The fields were so thick with AP landmines they were a constant threat even to the faction who laid them. There are accounts of armies losing too many troops during marches through the feared, uncharted minefields.

The Vietnam/American War (1958 – 1968) saw entire villages surrounded by landmines, which were hand laid or dropped from the air. Nobody kept full records of the mines laid and it was almost impossible to do so for the mines dropped from aircraft. Many of these mines still posing threats to local people decades later.

Angola (1975 – present day) is considered to be the most mine-infested country in Africa. Mine-laying was done from 1975 to the present with little effort to record and map the minefields. Roads leading into the heart of the country were heavily mined and major towns were surrounded by AP and AT mines.

In Mozambique many of the different factions were responsible for the mine-laying at different times and in different places with all the minefields unmarked or mapped. In early 2000 Mozambique and surrounding countries experienced some of the worst flooding in living memory. These floods caused all the mines to move and consequently pose new threats to the local population.

In Cambodia, 1978 – present day, all the warring factions used mines. Most of the mine laying occurring in the North Western provinces by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and targeted the civilian populations. Humanitarian groups have demined areas just to have them re-mined again. Although the monthly injury rate has fallen in the past years from 300 victims per month down to 100 victims per month, Cambodia has more amputees per capita of the population than any other country in the world.

Afghanistan is one of the three most heavily mined countries in the world. Most of the land was mined from 1979 to the present day and is especially heavy along borders with Iran and Pakistan. Over 30 different types of mines have been found there.


It is estimated that each day over 70 people are killed or injured by anti-personnel mines.

Today there are an estimated 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground around the world and another 100 million in stockpiles. Between 5 and 10 million more mines are produced each year. 

Mines recognise no cease-fire and long after the fighting has stopped they continue to maim and kill.

The stark reality is that there are more mines deployed every day than are removed by deminers. It can cost 100 times more to remove one mine than the cost to produce one. The cheapest mines can be acquired for a few dollars, while the United Nations has estimated clearance costs for one landmine can be as much as $1,000 US. More than 50 countries have manufactured about 200 million anti-personnel landmines in the last 25 years.

Land mines are containers of explosive material with detonating systems that are triggered by contact with a person or vehicle. They are designed to incapacitate that person or vehicle through damage caused by an explosive blast and metal fragments. Military advantages are gained from taking out of action another 3 abled bodied soldiers to carry the injured one, as well as lowering the moral of the enemy as they forced to listen to their comrade/s screaming in pain.

What makes anti-personnel mines so abhorrent is the fact that they are designed to maim and not to kill, as well as the indiscriminate nature it selects victims. Anti-personnel mines cannot distinguish between the footfall of a soldier and that of a child. Unlike bullets and artillery shells, mines are not aimed or fired, instead they lie dormant until a person or animal triggers their detonating mechanism.

Half of all people die from a landmine injury,
either immediately from the explosion
- as is the case with most children -
or from blood loss and exposure.


Mines are seldom found by themselves and are often laid in triangular groups of 3 or more. If a mine is laid properly it should be impossible to tell it is there. Most minefields are unmarked and so there are often few clues to show that it is a mined area. An unsuspecting passer-by may have no idea that there is a danger until it is too late. 

Warring groups use landmines to defend positions as it provides a first warning signal of advancing enemy. Land mines are often used to prevent people and vehicles from moving through certain areas, and to channel them onto certain routes from which they can not deviate. The most common use of mines in civil conflicts is to protect economic and social targets such as bridges, dams, oil, gas and water pipelines and railroad stations from attack or sabotage by the enemy. 

Increasingly over the last two decades, land mines have come to serve not only as military weapons but also as political weapons. Many parties to civil conflicts have sought to instill a sense of dissatisfaction and chaos in the civilian population, based on the perceived impotence of the government to protect them from mine casualties. 

Large tracts of agricultural land are rendered unusable, wreaking environmental and economic devastation. Refugees returning to rebuild their lives in war-ravaged countries face the deadly landmine obstacle. Landmines are now a daily threat in Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Croatia, Iraq, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Somalia, and dozens of other countries.

In addition, by laying mines in agricultural fields and plantations, around irrigation systems, in forests necessary for firewood, and in villages themselves, groups of combatants have succeeded in driving large numbers of civilians out of rural areas and into large cities and towns, adding enormously to the social and economic burdens of those in control of the cities. In some places, such as Cambodia mines are even used by civilians as a way to make a living; scrap metal collection; fishing and to protect their property.


There are estimated to be around 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground and another 100 million stockpiled around the world. More than 350 different types of anti-personnel mines exist. Even if no more mines are ever laid, they will continue to maim and kill for many years to come.  Bold steps must be taken now to save future generations of innocent civilians. If sufficient funds are provided, deminers from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines ICBL say that mine clearance necessary to restore daily life to near normal levels may be achieved in years, and not the decades once predicted. 

Worst Affected Countries:-

According to the information gathered from the extensive Landmine Monitoring Project by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the following countries suffer from some level of mine contamination.

Africa (26 countries)
Somaliland, Chad, Djibouti, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sudan, Zambia, Congo (Brazzaville), Dr Congo, Eritrea, Liberia and Somalia.

Americas (9 countries)
Falklands/Malvinas, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Colombia.

Asia-Pacific (17 countries)
Taiwan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Burma, China, India, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Laos, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Europe and Central Asia, (25 countries)
Abkhazia, Chechnya, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Slovenia, Albania, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Moldova, the Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Yugoslavia.

Middle East and North Africa, (16 countries)
Iraqi Kurdistan, Western Sahara, Palestine, Jordan, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Syria.


Landmine Production Human Rights Watch/Arms Project has identified almost 100 companies and government agencies in 48 countries that have manufactured more than 340 types of anti-personnel landmines in recent decades. They include more than one dozen countries and more than 150 landmines not previously publicly identified anywhere. The available evidence suggests that China, Italy and the former Soviet Union were probably the largest producers and exporters of anti-personnel mines in recent years, though not necessarily in that order. Though official data would seem to place the United States far behind, field reports from mine clearance groups suggest that the U.S. must have been in the front ranks in the not-too-distant past. HRW/Arms Project estimates that manufacturers have probably produced an average of between five and ten million anti-personnel landmines per year in recent decades, roughly ten times the production volume previously reported in the trade press.

Combined global production of anti-personnel mines (excluding delivery systems and accessories) is probably worth at least $50 million to $200 million annually. In addition to the three mentioned above, the following countries (not ranked by their order) have also been among the world's larger producers in recent years:

Eastern Europe
Former Czechoslovakia, former East Germany and former Yugoslavia

Western Europe
Belgium, and possibly also Austria, France, Greece and Sweden

Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, and possibly also Chile, Iran, Iraq, South Korea and North Korea.

Although China, Italy and the former USSR rate as the top exporters, many developing nations are becoming increasingly active in landmine production and trade. A recent study by the US Defence Intelligence Agency obtained under the Freedom of Information Act names China, Egypt, Pakistan and South Africa as new "ambitious marketers of landmine munitions deeply involved in high technology proliferation." Other countries which probably rate as significant exporters of anti-personnel landmines in recent years include Belgium, Chile, Greece, Israel, Portugal, Singapore, Spain and the former Yugoslavia. The United States was once a significant exporter. Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the United States has exported more than 4.3 million anti-personnel mines since 1969. In the past decade, however, the US exported about 150,000 anti-personnel mines.

TOTAL: 16 producers
North Korea
South Korea
United States
FR Yugoslavia

TOTAL: 38 former producers
Czech Republic
Finland *
Israel *

South Africa
Taiwan *
United Kingdom

* treaty non-signatory

TOTAL: 5 suspected producers
Other countries have been identified as producers by US Government but deny current or past production.

China 110 mil. +
Russia 60-70 mil. +
Belarus Millions*
USA 11.3 mil.
Ukraine 10 mil. #
Italy 5.5 mil. #
India 4-5 mil. +
Albania 2.2 mil. +

South Korea 2 mil. +
Sweden 1.7 mil. #

+: estimate
#: being destroyed
*  Belarus has acknowledged "millions" in stockpile. However, it has estimated cost of destruction at "tens of millions," which likely means that tens of millions of AP mines are in stockpile.

as of 14/12/1999
Afghanistan – Unknown
Albania - est. 2.2 million
Algeria - Unknown
Angola - Unknown
Argentina - Unknown
Armenia - Unknown
Azerbaijan - Unknown
Bangladesh - Unknown
Belarus - est. tens of millions
Brazil - Unknown
Brunei - 9,000 estimated
Bulgaria - 885,872 *
Burma (Myanmar) - Unknown
Cambodia - Unknown, *
Central African Republic - Unknown
Chile - Unknown
Colombia - Unknown
Congo (Brazzaville) - Unknown
Croatia - 198,649 *
Cuba - Unknown
Cyprus - Unknown
Czech Republic - 320,000 *
DPR of Korea - Unknown
DR of Congo - Unknown
Denmark - 169,422 *
Djibouti - Unknown, *
Ecuador - Unknown
Egypt - Unknown
Eritrea - Unknown
Ethiopia - Unknown
Finland -hundreds of thousands
Gabon - Unknown
Georgia - Unknown
Greece - Unknown
Guinea-Bissau - Unknown, *
Pakistan - est. hundreds of thousands
Guyana - Unknown
Honduras - 9,439 #
India - est. 4-5 million
Indonesia - Unknown
Iran - Unknown
Iraq - Unknown
Israel – Unknown
Italy - 5.5 million *
Japan - 1,000,089, *
Jordan - 80,868 *
Kazakhstan - Unknown
Kenya - Unknown
Kuwait - Unknown
Kyrgzstan - Unknown
Laos - Unknown
Latvia - 4,500 or 20,000
Lebanon - Unknown
Liberia - Unknown
Libya - Unknown
Lithuania - Unknown
Macedonia - 42,921 #
Madagascar - Unknown
Malawi - Unknown
Malaysia - Unknown
Mauritania - Unknown
Moldova - est. 12,000
Morocco - Unknown
Mozambique - Unknown
Netherlands - 10,000, *
Nicaragua - 116,813 *
Niger - Unknown
Nigeria - Unknown
Oman - Unknown

PR China - est. 110 million
Peru - Unknown, destruction start early 2000
Poland - Unknown
Portugal – Unknown, *
Republic of Korea - est. 2 million
Romania - Unknown
Russia - est. 60-70 million
Rwanda - Unknown
Saudi Arabia - Unknown
Sierra Leone - Unknown
Singapore - Unknown
Slovakia – est. 72,000 *
Slovenia - 163,794 *
Somalia – Unknown
Spain - 247,000 *
Sri Lanka - Unknown
Sudan - Unknown
Sweden - 1,666,639 *
Syria - Unknown
Tajikistan - Unknown
Thailand - est. 390,000 *
Tunisia - Unknown, *
Turkey - Unknown
Turkmenistan - Unknown
Uganda - est. 50,000 *
Ukraine - 10 million *
United States of America - 11,299,338
Uruguay - 2,338 *
Uzbekistan - Unknown
Venezuela - Unknown
Vietnam - Unknown
Yemen - 59,000
Yugoslavia - Unknown
Zambia - Unknown
Zimbabwe - Unknown

*: destruction underway
#: destruction in planning


The 1983 Landmines Protocol is deeply flawed and has been routinely ignored by nearly all landmine users. The complete failure of the Landmines Protocol to control landmine use, its failure to conform to the requirements imposed by customary humanitarian law, and the extreme devastation that has resulted from mine warfare, necessitates a ban on the production, stockpiling trade and use of landmines.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, who provides an introduction to "Landmines: A Deadly Legacy," successfully pressed the US Congress to enact a legal ban on the export of landmines in 1992. A three-year extension of that ban has just passed the Senate. Proper application of customary international humanitarian law already requires a ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines.

Furthermore, the basis in disarmament law for a ban on indiscriminate weapons that cause unconscionable harm provides a strong foundation for prohibiting production, stockpiling and transfer of landmines.

In the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) successfully lobbied for the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction (1997 Mine Ban Treaty) By September 1998, 40 countries had ratified the treaty, thus making the treaty international law on 1 March 1999. Since the treaty became law, countries may no longer sign it, they must accede. Those countries which have already signed, must still ratify in order to be fully bound by the ban provisions.


Throughout history many military leaders have written negatively about the way landmines are used and their results.

“… barbaric
Confederate enlisted men. 1860’s.

“… it was not war but murder”
General William T. Sherman. Union Army. 1864.

“The rebels have been guilty of the most murderous and barbarous conduct in placing torpedoes within abandoned works near wells and springs; near flagstaffs, magazines, telegraph offices, in carpet bags, barrels of flour, etc … I shall make the prisoners remove them at their peril.”
General McClellan, US Union Army. 1860s.

“… (neither a) proper nor effective method of war
General James Longstreet, US Confederate Army (Brigadier-General Rain’s commanding officer). 1862.

“Mine warfare is an unpleasant business. It is foreign to our character to set traps cold bloodedly, or to kill a man a fortnight in arrears so to speak, when you yourself are out of harm’s way; and most British soldiers who have experienced it will own a rooted dislike of mine warfare in principle and in practice. There is too, something fairly derogatory about becoming a casualty from a mine; as a weapon of war it lacks the distinction of a shell or bullet. If one has to lose a foot (or one’s life) it seems rather more respectable somehow for it to be done by a shell rather than a mine.”
Colonel J.M. Lambert. 1952.

Back to Index


Croll, Mike, History of Landmines. Pen and Sword Books, November 1998.

International Campaign to Ban Landmines website,, Landmines: Background Information website,

Goliath: Landmines, the Invisible Goliath, Paul Hubbard & Joseph Wehland July, 1997,

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