smart mines. Mines whose detonation deactivation is not set are called
dumb or persistent mines. To prevent magnetic detection, modern land mines have often been encased in plastic rather than metal.
No completely safe way of removing land mines is known. In World War II the United States and Great Britain developed several types of mine-detecting and mine-exploding equipment, but they proved inadequate. Despite technological advances, identification still usually requires an inch by inch probing of the ground, which carries great risk and cost.
According to UN figures there are approximately 100 million mines laid across the world, with more than twice that amount in stockpiles. Angola is estimated to have 15 million mines Cambodia, 10 million (which translates to one per citizen) Afghanistan, 10 million and Bosnia and Croatia, 3 million each. It is most often the world's civilian populations that are injured (20,000 annually) or killed (10,000).
In 1997 an international treaty called for signatory nations to end the use, development, acquisition, and stockpiling of land mines and to destroy their current stocks of such mines the treaty went into effect in 1999. More than 150 nations are now parties to the treaty. The United States has refused to sign the treaty, arguing that doing so would hinder the country's ability to protect its troops Russia and China also have not signed. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to bring about the signing of the treaty. In 2011 the U.S. government ended the use of persistent land mines in 2014 it announced it would abide by the treaty everywhere except Korea.
Minesweepers are employed as a countermeasure, often with wooden or composite hulls to avoid magnetic mines. Helicopters can explode mines by towing sweeping equipment while traveling at a safe distance above the water. Minesweeping is vital both during and after a conflict, as thousands of active mines may still be floating in shipping lanes. As recently as the mid-1990s naval mines were discovered in the seabed off a popular beach in Malta they had been laid by the British during World War II to sink German vessels.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Military Affairs (nonnaval)
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