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United Kingdom

Last Updated: 25 August 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Overall Mine Action Performance: POOR[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 United Kingdom (UK) is affected by antipersonnel mines by virtue of its control and assertion of full sovereignty over the Falkland Islands/Malvinas,[2]which were contaminated during the armed conflict between the UK and Argentina in 1982. The conflict resulted in many thousands of antipersonnel and antivehicle mines being laid on the islands, most by Argentina. Following land release in 2011–2012, 113 mined areas remained to be released, covering a total area of more than 9km2 and which contain some 19,000 mines.[3] The UK had not clarified how much land remains to be released as of 2014.

No civilian mine casualties have ever occurred on the islands.[4] The UK has reported that six military personnel were injured in 1982 and two more were injured in 1983. Most military accidents took place while clearing the minefields in the immediate aftermath of the 1982 conflict or in the process of trying to establish the extent of the minefield perimeters, particularly where no detailed records existed.

Over the years, however, there have been numerous instances where civilians have deliberately or inadvertently entered a minefield. The Ministry of Defence reported “infringement” of minefields by a total of six locals and 15 foreign fishermen or tourists between March 2000 and December 2008.[5]On 6 December 2008, three crew members of a Belgian yacht inadvertently entered a minefield at Kidney Cove on East Falklands but were not injured. In October 2002, a Falkland Islander was fined £1,000 (then US$1,503) for entering a minefield on Goose Green.[6]It is a criminal offense on the Falkland Islands to enter a minefield.

The socio-economic impact of contamination on the islands is said to be minimal. All mined and suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) are reported to have been “perimeter-marked and are regularly monitored and protected by quality stock proof fencing, to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians.”[7] According to the UK, the mined areas represent “only 0.1% of land used for farming. The mined areas cover a wide range of terrain including sandy beaches and dunes, mountains, rock screes, dry peat, wet swampy peat, and pasture land.”[8]A number of instances of cattle, sheep, or horses entering the minefields have been recorded since 2000, some of which resulted in the animals’ deaths.[9]

Cluster munition remnants

There are an unknown number of cluster munition remnants on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas as a result of use of BL755 cluster bombs by the UK against Argentine positions during the 1982 armed conflict.

In February 2009, the Ministry of Defence stated in a letter to Landmine Action the following: “According to historical records either 106 or 107 Cluster Bomb Units (CBU) were dropped by British Harriers and Sea Harriers during the conflict. Each CBU contains 147 BL755 submunitions and using the higher CBU figure (107), a total of 15,729 sub-munitions were dropped. Using a 6.4% failure rate assessed during in-service surveillance over 15 years, we would estimate that 1,006 would not explode. Given that 1,378 BL 755s were cleared in the first year after the conflict and that a further 120 have been found and disposed of since (totaling 1,498), clearly there was a slightly higher failure rate. Even if the rate had been closer to 10% and 1,573 had failed, we can only estimate that some 70 remain but that due to the very soft nature of the peat found on the islands, many of these will have been buried well below the surface. We believe that the majority of those remaining are now contained within existing minefields and these will be cleared in due course.”[10]

The UK has not reported any clearance of submunitions since operations were conducted in 2009–2010 across four mined areas in which two submunitions were destroyed.[11]

Other explosive remnants of war

The extent of other explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas is not known, but survey and clearance results in the past few years suggest some unexploded ordnance (UXO) remain to be cleared. A total of 11 items of UXO, including two submunitions, were destroyed in clearance operations in 2009−2010 and another 79 UXO items in operations conducted between January and March 2012.[12]

Mine Action Program

A National Mine Action Authority (NMAA) composed of both the UK and the Falkland Islands governments was established in 2009 to oversee clearance of mined areas.[13]The Ninth Meeting of States Parties noted the UK’s undertaking to provide regular reports on the establishment of an NMAA “and other implementation bodies.”[14]

In August 2009, the UK contracted Colin King Associates to manage a Falkland Islands Demining Programme Office (DPO) mandated to execute the policies of the NMAA and to coordinate mine action activities on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas.[15] In 2011, the contract for the DPO was awarded to Fenix Insight.[16] In mid-October 2009, Battle Area Clearance, Training, Equipment and Consultancy International Limited (BACTEC) won the first in a series of contracts for clearance and land release[17] leading to the start of operations at the beginning of December 2009.[18]

Land Release

No clearance or land release took place in the 2013−14 austral winter demining season. The UK said it was instead “focused on agreeing a multi-year plan for the next round of mine clearance operations.” The UK gave no timelines for starting the next phase but said it aimed to release details of the plan “as soon as possible.”[19]

BACTEC conducted battle area clearance (BAC) south of Stanley between January and the end of March 2012 releasing 3.7km2 of SHA and destroying 79 items of UXO.[20] Fenix Insight, managing the Falklands operations, reported that BACTEC conducted further clearance in 2013 but gave no details of the area involved. The project brought the total amount of land released by survey or clearance to 4.7km2 since operations started in 2009.[21]

Mine clearance in 2013−14

For the second time in three years, no mine clearance occurred in the 2013−14 demining season. The UK had reported that in early 2013 BACTEC had conducted technical survey, mine and battle area clearance, clearing five minefields and destroying 296 antipersonnel mines, 32 antivehicle mines, and six booby traps. It did not give details of the amount of land cleared or released in this operation.[22]

Fenix Insight reported that at the end of the operation, the UK had released a total of 4.7km2 of battle area, including 22,053m2 that had been subjected to full manual clearance or technical survey and 13,660m2 that was subject to a combination of mechanical technical survey and manual follow up. The remaining land was released through non-technical and technical survey and BAC.[23]

Article 5 Compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty (and in accordance with the 10-year extension request granted by States Parties in November 2008), the UK is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 March 2019.

The Ninth Meeting of States Parties in December 2008 agreed to the UK’s request for a 10-year extension but noted the UK had agreed to provide, not later than the end of June 2010, a detailed explanation of how demining is proceeding and the implications for future demining in order to meet the UK’s obligations under Article 5.[24] As of May 2014, the UK had not fulfilled this commitment.

At the June 2010 Standing Committee meetings, the UK stated that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) would analyze data gathered from the Phase 1 operations on four sites in 2009−2010 “and make recommendations for future work based on this analysis.” It added: “We intend to report the findings of our analysis and agreed next steps to States Parties at the Meeting of States Parties in November 2010.”[25] The UK did not announce further clearance plans at the December 2010 Meeting of States Parties or subsequently.

In June 2011, the UK stated that it had planned a two-year pilot project in its extension request before it would be in a position to set out a full plan to meet its legal obligations.[26] On that basis, the UK was due to present the full plan in 2013. The FCO said in May 2014 it would release details of plans for a fourth phase of demining “as soon as possible.”[27]

Compliance with Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Under Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the UK is required to destroy all cluster munition remnants in areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 November 2020.

As noted above, the Falkland Islands/Malvinas are believed to be still affected to a limited extent by unexploded submunitions. In its initial Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 report, the UK states that “there are no UK areas contaminated by cluster munitions or explosive sub-munitions.”[28] The UK seems to consider the possible contamination on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas to be residual in nature and not amenable to being addressed in terms of “contaminated areas.” With significant amounts of clearance already completed, such an assessment may be reasonable. This assessment could be further clarified by the release of any data on the locations of strikes using BL755 cluster munitions to determine if any strikes were targeted inside the mined areas. Any strike sites inside mined areas would likely not have been addressed in the earlier phase of clearance due to the challenge of access.


·         The UK should provide a comprehensive statement clarifying the results of the first three phases of operations and detailing the location and amount of land remaining to be released.

·         After years of delay and stop-start demining, the UK should present detailed plans and timelines for completing demining of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas in accordance with its international legal obligations.


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

[2] There is a sovereignty dispute over the Falklands Islands/Malvinas with Argentina.

[3] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 30 May 2008, p. 2. Argentina, in 2006, estimated the number of mines remaining to be cleared at higher than the 16,000. See Argentina, Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, Form C, 4 May 2006.

[4] Statement of the UK, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 27 May 2009.

[5] Letter from Permanent Joint Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence to Landmine Action, 16 February 2009.

[6] Lisa Johnson, “Lucky minefield incident for landing crew in Falklands,” MercoPress, 9 December 2008.

[7] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, Executive Summary, 18 November 2008, p. 1.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Letter from Permanent Joint Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence to Landmine Action, 16 February 2009.

[10] Letter from Lt.-Col. Scott Malina-Derben, Ministry of Defence, 6 February 2009.

[11] Statement of the UK, Mine Ban Treaty Tenth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 1 December 2010.

[12] Ibid.; and statement of the UK, Mine Ban Treaty Twelfth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 5 December 2012.

[13] Statement of the UK, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 27 May 2009.

[14] Decision on the UK Article 5 deadline Extension Request, Ninth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 28 November 2008.

[15] FCO, “UK-London: mine sweeping services 2009/S 97-140126, Contract Notice,” 19 May 2009; and email from Colin King, Programme Manager, DPO, 19 November 2009.

[16] Telephone interview with David Hewitson, Director, Fenix Insight, 28 October 2013.

[17] BACTEC, “BACTEC Awarded Falkland Islands Project,” 20 October 2009.

[18] “Mine Clearance Begins In The Falklands,” Blog of UK Ambassador John Duncan.

[19] Email from Jeremy Wilmshurst, Conventional Arms Policy Officer, Arms Export Policy Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK, 21 May 2014.

[20] Presentation of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 22 May 2012.

[21] Email from David Hewitson, Fenix Insight, 30 October 2013.

[22] Presentation of UK, and remarks by David Hewitson, Fenix Insight, Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 28 May 2013.

[23] Email from David Hewitson, Fenix Insight, 30 October 2013.

[24] Decision on the UK Article 5 deadline Extension Request, Ninth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 28 November 2008.

[25] Statement of UK, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 22 June 2010.

[26] Ibid., 21 June 2011. Notes by the ICBL.

[27] Email from Jeremy Wilmshurst, FCO, UK, 21 May 2014.