Last Updated: 24 August 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination in the Republic of Armenia is primarily the consequence of its armed conflict with Azerbaijan in 1988–94, which saw landmines laid by both sides. The most heavily contaminated areas are along the borders and confrontation lines with Azerbaijan, including the area in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and other territories controlled by the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Forces. Armenia’s border with Georgia has been cleared of mines, whereas the border with Turkey, also mined during the Soviet era, is still contaminated.[1]

The 2005 Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) identified 102 suspect hazardous areas (SHAs) in five districts bordering Azerbaijan. The LIS estimated the contaminated area at more than 321km2 of land, affecting 60 communities.[2] In August 2012, HALO Trust conducted a partial survey of 17 sites and was able to cancel 80% of the area identified by the LIS for these sites. However, HALO activities were suspended following a grant awarded by the United States (US) Department of State to the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) to resurvey Armenia.[3]

FSD started a non-technical survey (NTS) in September 2012, which was completed in May 2013.[4] According to FSD and the Armenian Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise (ACHDE), the survey found 131 dangerous areas in four districts bordering Azerbaijan. These areas cover a total of 47km2 of land, of which 17 SHAs cover 26km2 and 114 confirmed hazardous areas (CHAs) cover 21km2.[5] Approximately 35,000 people in 42 communities were found to be impacted by contamination.[6] However, these figures do not include two communities known to be contaminated which, during the FSD survey, were not accessible for security reasons.[7]

FSD was mandated by the government of Armenia to survey impacted communities outside the military restricted zone. Therefore, 50 SHAs that fall inside the military perimeter were not included in the survey.[8] The NTS was conducted only within the internationally recognized boundaries of Armenia.[9]

During NTS, FSD teams collected information on 271 non-recent mine victims. These records were submitted to the ICRC, which maintains a mine victim database in Armenia.[10] In addition, the ACHDE is the coordination body to which all casualty data is submitted for inclusion into the national IMSMA database. [11]

Territory seized from Azerbaijan during the conflict is believed to be significantly contaminated by mines and ERW, including unexploded submunitions.[12] However, the precise extent of contamination in those districts is unknown.

Mine Action Program

In 2002, the ACHDE was established under the Ministry of Defence as a state agency for mine action activities.[13] In February 2012, the government of Armenia changed the legal status of the ACHDE to a civilian, non-commercial state organization responsible for conducting surveys, identifying contaminated areas, and implementing mine clearance operations. Under its new status, the ACHDE can negotiate with international demining organizations, accept international funding, sign contracts, and receive assistance.[14]

In January 2014, the Foundation for Demining and Demolition (FDD) was established as a national, civilian, and non-commercial demining organization in Armenia with support from the ACHDE, Geowulf LLC, FSD, and the government of Armenia.[15] Its main tasks are to conduct humanitarian demining and to destroy expired or obsolete arms and ammunition in Armenia.[16]

FSD has been present in Armenia since 2012.[17] In mid-2012, HALO briefly operated in Armenia mainly in NTS activities and, at the end of 2013, it deployed staff in one of Armenia’s affected regions with a view to starting technical survey (TS) and clearance activities in April 2014.[18]

Strategic planning

In March 2013, a discussion was held at the Ministry of Defence on the nationwide survey carried out in 2012–13.[19] The chair of the ACHDE’s council, Ara Nazaryan, stated that “the drafting of a national mine action program, its approval and subsequent implementation are priority tasks for comprehensive demining activities in the territory of the Republic of Armenia.”[20] Based on the NTS findings, the ACHDE will develop a national mine action plan to be submitted to the Armenian government, which will be implemented by the ACHDE following governmental approval.[21]

One of the objectives of the Armenian Mine Action Strategy 2007–11 was reduction through TS and clearance of 2.2% (7km2) of the SHAs identified by the LIS and 6.8% of the SHAs outside the restricted military zone.[22] Little progress was achieved in this regard.[23]

In 2013, with the assistance of FSD, the ACHDE developed the Armenian National Mine Action Standards (NMAS), which have been submitted to the government for approval. With the support of FSD, the ACHDE has set up and manages the national IMSMA database.[24]

Land Release

Armenia does not report systematically on its mine clearance operations. In the past, demining in Armenia has been slow and productivity rates low, with the Ministry of Defence reporting only some 2km2 of mined land cleared from 2002 to the end of 2008.[25] During 2013, only NTS operations were conducted by FSD with the support of the ACHDE.[26]

In September 2013, HALO opened an office in the Kapan region in order to initiate its new demining activities under a US$600,000 grant awarded by the US Department of State for a two-year period (2013–15).[27] On 1 April 2014, HALO’s demining and survey teams, together with manual demining and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) units of Armenia’s Peace Keeping Engineering Battalion (PKEB) started TS and clearance operations near the town of Kapan, in Armenia’s most contaminated region of Syunik.[28]

The demining project aims to release 100,000m2 (0.1km2) of mined area by November 2014 while training the PKEB to international standards so that they can manage demining operations by the end of 2015.[29] Preparations will be conducted in 16 of the total of 114 CHAs identified by the FSD survey.[30] Activities will be coordinated by and conducted under the authority of the ACHDE with technical support from FSD.[31]

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although Armenia has not adhered to the Mine Ban Treaty, it voluntarily provides information on antipersonnel mines to the UN and to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for transparency and confidence-building.[32] Whatever information is provided, however, is not publicly available.

Support for Mine Action

Armenia has not reported on its support to mine action in the last four years. In August 2009, Armenia reported providing all financial resources for the ACHDE since 2008. No details were provided.[33]

In fiscal year 2012, the US Department of State awarded FSD a US$391,000 grant to conduct the resurvey in order to further reduce the 102 SHAs of the 2005 LIS.[34] In 2013, FSD received US$132,000 and in 2014 another $300,000 from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the US Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA). In addition, FSD contributed $40,503 of its own funds to support mine action in Armenia.[35]

In 2013, HALO received $600,000 from the US Department of State to conduct TS and clearance and train Armenian demining personnel between September 2013 and September 2015.[36]

Between 2009 and 2012, ITF Enhancing Human Security implemented the first phase of a Victims Assistance project, “Socio-Economic Reintegration Program for Mine Victims in Armenia,” financed by the Austrian Development Agency and South Korea. At the end of 2012, the same donors provided $246,445 for a three-year Phase 2 of the project.[37]


[1] Email from Ruben Arakelyan, Director, Armenian Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise (ACHDE), 19 March 2014; and interview in Geneva, 1 April 2014.

[2] UNDP Armenia Humanitarian Demining Project, Landmine Impact Survey in Armenia 2005, Yerevan, August 2005.

[3] Emails from Andrew Moore, Caucasus and Balkans Desk Officer, HALO Trust, 17 February 2014; and Valeria Fabbroni, Head of Operations, FSD, 26 February 2014.

[4] Email from Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, 21 February 2014; and US Department of State, “To Walk the Earth in Safety 2013,” Washington DC, August 2013, p. 33.

[5] Email from Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, 21 February 2014.

[6] ACHDE, “Landmine Impact Scope,” undated, accessed 17 February 2014.

[7] ACHDE, “FSD non-technical mine action survey,” ACHDE, Yerevan, 2013, p. 11.

[8] Ibid., p. 7.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Email from Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, 19 March 2014.

[11] “FSD non-technical mine action survey,” ACHDE, Yerevan, 2013, p. 10.

[12] Azerbaijan Nataional Agency for Mine Action A, “Scope of the Problem,” accessed 6 February 2014.

[13] J. Keane, “Armenia,” Journal of Mine Action, Issue 11.1, 2007.

[14] Armenian Ministry of Defence, “The New Legal Status of the Humanitarian De-Mining Center,” accessed 13 February 2014.

[15] Email from Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, 20 March 2014.

[16] Ibid., 19 March 2014.

[17] Email from Valeria Fabbroni, FSD, 26 February 2014.

[18] Email from Andrew Moore, HALO, 17 February 2014.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Armenia, “Armenia Mine Action Strategy 2007–11,” Yerevan, 2006, p. 36.

[23] See V. Bohle, N. Weigel, EC-Funded Mine Actions in the Caucasus and Central Asia, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), 2009, pp. 25–31.

[24] Email from Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, 19 March 2014.

[26] Email from Valeria Fabbroni, FSD, 26 February 2014.

[27] Interview with Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, Geneva, 1 April 2014.

[28] Ibid.; and HALO, “HALO begins mine clearance in Armenia and finds first mine,” Press Release, undated but accessed 14 April 2014.

[29] Interview with Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, in Geneva, 1 April 2014.

[30] Ibid.

[32] Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Security and defense, Armenia in the international system of conventional arms control,” accessed 3 March 2014.

[33] Email from Maj. Armen Zakaryan, Armenian Ministry of Defence, 10 August 2009.

[34] US Department of State, “To Walk the Earth on Safety 2013,” Washington DC, August 2013, p. 33.

[35] Emails from Valeria Fabbroni, FSD, 26 February 2014; and Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, 21 February 2014. US$1=CHF 0.9269: US Federal Reserve, “List of Exchange Rates (Annual),” 24 February 2014.

[36] Emails from Ruben Arakelyan, ACHDE, 21 February 2014; and Andrew Moore, HALO, 6 March 2014.

[37] Emails from Natasa Ursic, Project Manager, ITF Enhancing Human Security, 28 February 2014, and 6 March 2014. €1=US$1.3281: US Federal Reserve, “List of Exchange Rates (Annual),” 24 February 2014.