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Last Updated: 24 August 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Overall Mine Action Performance: GOOD[1]

Performance Indicator


Problem understood


Target date for completion of clearance


Targeted clearance


Efficient clearance


National funding of program


Timely clearance


Land release system


National mine action standards


Reporting on progress


Improving performance




The northern region of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania is affected by mines and other ordnance primarily as a result of the conflict over Western Sahara in 1975–1978. A 2006 Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) found a total of 65 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) covering 76km2 and affecting 60 communities. In March 2010, Morocco provided detailed maps of minefields laid during the Western Sahara conflict. The minefields were cleared using military standards prior to entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty.[2] Based on information collected during the LIS and provided by Morocco, as well as results of land release activities conducted by Mauritania, it was estimated in September 2010 that 64km2 across 20 SHAs remained to be addressed.[3]

In 2013, clearance was completed in two of the three contaminated provinces, Tiris Zemour and Adrar. According to Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), an initial non-technical survey (NTS) of the province of Nouadhibou in December 2013 identified just over 8km2 requiring technical survey (TS) and clearance.[4] NPA informed the Monitor that the majority of the hazardous areas identified during the survey are located near the border with Western Sahara and might be considered as outside of Mauritanian territory and thus not under its jurisdiction.[5]

As of the beginning of May 2014, following consultations between NPA and the National Humanitarian Demining Program for Development (Programme National de Déminage Humanitaire pour le Développement, PNDHD), it was estimated that 14 tasks, in five communities in Nouadhibou (Swaideyyat, Swasyat, Guerguera, Zafati, and Bouchoun), covering approximately 1.7km2 remained to be released.[6] There is also a need for clarity surrounding mined areas in Western Sahara that may fall within Mauritania.

The impact of contamination is predominantly social and economic rather than humanitarian, blocking access to pasture and other community resources as well as occasionally killing livestock.[7] The last reported mine casualties were in 2010 when three people were injured.[8]

Mine Action Program

The PNDHD coordinates mine action operations in Mauritania.[9] Since August 2007, the program has been the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization, with oversight from an interministerial Steering Committee, set up by decree in September 2007. The PNDHD has its headquarters in the capital, Nouakchott, and a regional mine action center in Nouadhibou.[10]

In accordance with a 2006 decree, all clearance activities have been conducted by the Army Engineer Corps operating under the PNDHD. In March 2011, NPA signed an agreement with Mauritania to provide support for mine and battle area clearance in the country. NPA has been since working in Mauritania both as an operator and in a capacity-building role.[11] In June 2013, NPA trained two Army Engineer Corps clearance teams, which were then deployed to Nouadhibou province.[12]

In 2014, NPA was planning to reduce its operational role and focus more on its advisory work. Clearance capacity was provided by seconded Engineers Corps personnel working to complete clearance of contaminated areas in Nouadhibou province.[13] NPA and the PNDHD were also planning to develop the Engineers Corps’ capacity to respond to residual threats after completion of clearance operations.[14]

Strategic planning

Mauritania’s extension request included a detailed work plan for 2010–15 containing annual milestones of area to be released each year and against which progress could be compared. By the end of 2011, operations would be over in the localities of Tiris Zemour and Adrar. This was finally achieved in 2013.

In 2013, a total area of almost 14km2 covering four areas was due to be released.[15] In May 2013, at the Standing Committee meetings, Mauritania reported to States Parties that in fact some 23km2 would be released during the year—approximately 9km2 more than foreseen in its five-year work plan.[16]

Land Release

Survey in 2013

NPA reported that in December 2013, initial NTS of Nouadhibou province was completed in partnership with the PNDHD, identifying just over 8km2 requiring further survey and clearance.[17] However, as some of the areas identified during the NTS were considered to be located outside of Mauritania’s territory, this estimate was revised downwards following consultations between NPA and the PNDHD. As of May 2014, 1.7km2 remained to be released affecting five communities.[18]

Clearance in 2013

In 2013, NPA reported releasing 23 mined areas covering approximately 16km2, of which about 20% was released through TS and full clearance, destroying in the process 46 antipersonnel mines and 48 antivehicle mines.[19] In contrast, Mauritania reported that in total 19.9km2 were released in 2013 through NTS, almost 0.6km2 through TS, and nearly 2.6km2 during clearance operations. According to the PNDHD, 91 antipersonnel mines and 47 antivehicle mines were destroyed during the process.[20] Different figures were provided by NPA, which managed all the demining teams.[21]

Land release in 2013[22]


Canceled by NTS (m2)

Released by TS (m2)

Cleared (m2)

Antipersonnel mines destroyed

Antivehicle mines destroyed

NPA/Army Engineers Corps






During 2013, four demining teams were operating in the provinces of Tiris Zemour and Adrar. Two additional teams were working in the Nouadhibou province from August to December 2013.[23]

Mine clearance results were slightly lower in 2013 than in 2012 due to a focus on clearance of cluster-munition-contaminated areas during 2013.[24]

Mine clearance in 2009–13 (km2)[25]


Mined area cleared (km2)













N/R = not reported

Article 5 Compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty (and in accordance with the five-year extension granted by States Parties in 2010), Mauritania is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 January 2016.

In its extension request, Mauritania explained that the reasons for its inability to meet its deadline were the following: lack of financial resources, insufficient progress in demining operations, use of only manual demining techniques, and difficult soil and climatic factors.[26] In presenting its extension request to the Standing Committee in June 2010, Mauritania stated that it had a “coherent plan” that combined land release by survey and clearance and that it hoped to involve international NGOs in its demining program.[27] NPA has since established a mine action program.

In May 2013, Mauritania said it was fully committed to achieving the objectives of its extension, noting that only lack of funding could impede timely fulfilment of its work-plan.[28]

Support for Mine Action

In 2013, Germany and Norway contributed US$1.77 million for clearance operations. They both provided their support through NPA.[29]

Since 2009, Mauritania has contributed approximately US$4.3 million, equivalent to half of its total mine action budget. In 2013, it estimated its contribution at US$850,000, the same as the previous year.


·         Mauritania should maintain its clearance efforts to be able to clear its last contaminated areas in Nouadhibou by 2016.

·         To better assess its progress and evaluate what remains to be done, Mauritania should ensure data is systematically reported and accurately reflects results achieved on the ground.

·         Mauritania should engage in discussions with relevant stakeholders regarding clearance of contaminated areas in Western Sahara and close to the Berm in the buffer zone.


[1] See “Mine Action Program Performance” for more information on performance indicators.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Melissa Andersson, Country Director, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), 18 March 2014.

[5] Emails from Melissa Andersson, NPA, 21 April 2014.

[6] Ibid., 7 May 2014.

[7] NPA, “Humanitarian Disarmament in Mauritania,” accessed 27 February 2014.

[8] Email from Alioune O. Mohamed El Hacen, Director, PNDHD, 17 April 2011.

[9] Decree No. 1960/MDAT/MDN establishing the PNDHD, 14 August 2007.

[10] Decree No. 001358/MDAT establishing the Steering Committee of the PNDHD, 3 September 2007.

[12] Melissa Andersson, “Demining graduation in Mauritania,” NPA, 28 June 2013.

[13] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Melissa Andersson, NPA, 18 March 2014.

[14] Ibid.

[16] Statement of Mauritania, Standing Committee on mine clearance, Geneva, 27 May 2013.

[17] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Melissa Andersson, NPA, 18 March 2014.

[18] Emails from Melissa Andersson, NPA, 7 May 2014, and Alioune O. Mohamed El Hacen, PNDHD, 12 May 2014.

[19] Emails from Melissa Andersson, NPA, 7 May 2014, and Alioune O. Mohamed El Hacen, PNDHD, 12 May 2014.

[20] Email from Alioune O. Mohamed El Hacen, PNDHD, 14 May 2014.

[21] In 2013, NPA reported that 13.1km2 were released through NTS, 2.1km2 through technical survey, and 0.84km2 during clearance operations, destroying 46 antipersonnel mines, 48 antivehicle mines, and 124 items of unexploded ordnance. Response to Monitor questionnaire by Melissa Andersson, NPA, 18 March 2014.

[22] Email from Alioune O. Mohamed El Hacen, PNDHD, 12 May 2014.

[23] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Melissa Andersson, NPA, 18 March 2014.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Mine Ban Treaty Revised Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 6 September 2010, p. 11; and NPA Annual Report 2012 to PNDHD, p. 3.

[27] Statement of Mauritania, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 23 June 2010.

[28] Ibid, 27 May 2013. Notes by ICBL.

[29] Email from Ingunn Vatne, Senior Advisor, Section for Humanitarian Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 April 2014; and Germany Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form I, 4 May 2014.