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Country Reports
CHILE, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: The Senate’s Foreign Affairs Commission approved Mine Ban Treaty ratification legislation on 15 December 1999. On 26 April 1999, Chile imposed a unilateral moratorium on the production, export, and new use of antipersonnel mines. On 25 November 1999, the Army announced plans for an 11-year mine clearance program for 293 border minefields with 250,000 mines at a cost of $250 million. The Army began mine clearance along the border with Bolivia in December 1999.

Mine Ban Policy

Chile signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 but has yet to ratify it. Ratification legislation was approved by the House of Deputies on 6 October 1998, and was sent to the Senate via Official Decree 2150. The Senate’s Foreign Affairs Commission approved the ratification legislation on 15 December 1999, and then sent the legislation to the Senate’s Revenue Commission for review of the costs and potential funding sources for compliance with the treaty. According to Senator Carlos Ominami, President of the Revenue Commission of the Senate, the review was to be ready in June 2000.[1]

A new government assumed power in Chile on 11 March 2000 and it has not made any statements regarding the landmine issue.

Chile attended the First Meeting of State Parties in Maputo in May 1999. Chile has participated in four of the ban treaty intersessional meetings in Geneva – one for each of the Standing Committees of Experts, except Technologies for Mine Action.

Chile voted for UN General Assembly Resolution 54/54B supporting the Mine Ban Treaty in December 1999, as it had for similar resolutions in 1997 and 1998. A Chilean representative said during the debate at the General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament) that “[I]t was essential for the First Committee to restore shattered concepts in international security, including a total prohibition of anti-personnel landmines, protection of civilians in conflicts, and prohibitions on small arms.”[2]

On 16 June 2000, at the meeting of the Grupo de Río held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, Chile was one of 19 countries of the region that signed the Cartagena Declaration.

Chile is not party to CCW and did not attend the first annual meeting of states parties to Amended Protocol II in December 1999. Chile is a member of the Conference on Disarmament but has made no recent statements regarding landmines in this venue.

Production, Stockpiling, Transfer, Use

On 26 April 1999 in an official declaration signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mariano Fernández Amunátegui, Chile imposed a unilateral moratorium on the production, export, and use of new AP mines.[3] According to the Foreign Ministry, Chile has not produced or exported AP mines since 1985.[4] Chile has produced at least six different types of AP mines in the past.[5] AP mines were manufactured by both the Army’s Fabricaciones Militares (FAMAE) and Industrias Cardoen, a private company.[6]

The size and composition of Chile’s AP mine stockpile is not clear. In February 2000, Chile’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Mario Artaza, told the ICBL that Chile’s stockpile numbered 22,000, and that the estimated cost of destruction was $850,000.[7] The stockpile number is surprisingly low and the destruction costs surprisingly high, but Landmine Monitor has not been able to get confirmation of either figure from other official sources.

In August 1999, in an official communiqué, reported in a newspaper article, Vice-Admiral Hernán Couyoumdjian, Chief of Staff of National Defense, stated that “the government has resolved to destroy its stockpiles, beginning the process with the destruction of one lot in the coming months, at a military training camp that is yet to be determined.” The communiqué added that the AP mines situation in the country was one of the priority tasks of the Office of the Chief of Staff of National Defense.[8] It is not known if any mine destruction has taken place.

The Army proposes destroying all AP and AT mines and replacing them by improved technologies, such as laser rays, “or smart or self-destructing mines.”[9]

There is little information on the amounts and recipients of AP mines produced and transferred by Chile. However, because of the Mine Ban Treaty’s transparency regime, some details are beginning to emerge. Ecuador declared in March 2000 that it stockpiles 101,458 Chilean AP mines.[10]

Landmine Problem

In September 1997, a Defense Ministry Official said that Chile had planted nearly one million AP and AT mines on its borders with Argentina, Bolivia, and Perú.[11] Other estimates have ranged between 500,000 and one million landmines.[12] In a newspaper article, Eduardo Santos, policy analyst at the Ministry of Defense, noted in November 1999 that there were at least 500,000 landmines along the borders with Argentina.[13]

According to a statement at a seminar in November 1999 by Vice-Admiral Hernán Couyoumdjian, Chilean minefields are marked throughout the country.[14] However at the same seminar, Dr. Nicolás Larenas, father of a UXO victim in the north of the country, stressed that these markers are in a bad state and need to be repaired.[15] Other newspaper articles have reported on the poor state of minefield markers in Chile, as well as the effects of climate and erosion that displace landmines. For example, in a ravine north of Arica, winter floods carried landmines towards the Pacific coast.[16]

According to a June 1999 newspaper report, a private gas company, Gas Atacama, had an unspecified accident involving landmines during construction of pipelines in the second region. According to the company, they subsequently had talks with the Army, which responded that “it did not have maps of the location of the mines and could not do anything about the matter.” Gas Atacama reportedly then hired the services of a national demining company that checked the course of the proposed pipeline route for mines.[17]

The landmine problem affects two leading-edge astronomical radio-telescope projects in the Atacama highlands: the Millimeter Array (MMA) project of the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Large Southern Array (LSA) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), now united under the single Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) project. According to a June 1999 newspaper report, Edward Hardy, General Manager of the MMA project, requested information from the Chilean Foreign Ministry about the presence of landmines on Llanura de Chajnantor. The Foreign Ministry had previously confirmed from the Army that there were no landmines in the sector. Hardy noted that according to his conversations with Senator Carmen Frei, once Chile ratified the Ottawa Treaty, a mine clearance program in the zone would necessarily lead to a more accurate assessment of the landmine problem.[18]

Mine Clearance

Aside from the Army, there is no national agency that focuses on the landmine problem. The argument most often used by Chilean politicians for delay in ratifying the Mine Ban Treaty is the cost of clearing minefields in the country. The cost has been estimated at $300 and $400 million at various times.[19] In August 1999, Vice Admiral Hernán Couyoumdjian, stated that the “political will of the Chilean government in eliminating the antipersonnel landmines laid in our frontiers and noted that advances would be made on this as needed economic resources were made available.”[20]

On 25 November 1999, the Army released plans for a mine clearance program for 293 minefields with 250,000 mines along Chile’s borders. The estimated cost was $250 million, and estimated time period of eleven years to complete. According to a newspaper article, “the plan would be implemented once the Congress ratified the Ottawa Treaty.”[21]

On 13 May 2000 it was reported in the press that a “Mine Clearance Programme had been approved by the Ministry of Defense but it is was not clear what percentage of mines would be cleared, taking into account topographical variations and the fact that thousands are made of plastic.”[22]

The Argentinean and Chilean governments held talks on mine clearance during former Argentinean President Menem’s visit to Santiago in August 1999. Argentina offered technical assistance but the Chilean military reportedly declined that option.[23] Nonetheless, Vice Admiral Couyoumdjian announced that engineering plans were being developed for the first mine clearance activities in the south of the country. According to an official communiqué, these mine clearance activities were already financed and would be carried out in Cabo del Hornos Island in the Wollaston Archipelago.[24]

At the 34th Conference of American Armies, held in November 1999 in the Bolivian capital La Paz, General Ricardo Izurieta, the Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army, announced that Chile would clear its minefields along the borders with Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.[25] General Izurieta said, “in the briefest timeframe we’ll clear minefields along the borders with Bolivia, Perú and Argentina – within the year – as a demonstration of our concrete and frank intention to strengthen ties with all our neighbours and in particular with the Bolivian Army.”[26]

On 1 December 1999, the Chilean Army announced in Santiago the launch of the program to clear mined areas and specified that it would begin immediately along the border with Bolivia: around Tambo Quemado, between Chile's First Region (Primera Región de Chile) and the Bolivian zone of Charana, at an altitude of some 4,000 meters in the Andes.[27] On 9 December 1999, it was reported that deminers had cleared an area of 13,500 square meters in Portezuelo de Tambo Quemado near the Bolivian border, destroying 250 M-14 antipersonnel mines and 27 M-15 antitank mines. The mines were found at a distance of 15 to 150 meters from the international highway linking Arica with La Paz, Bolivia. A team from the “Azapa” 6th Engineers Regiment, based in Arica, carried out the clearance operation.[28] At the time, the Chilean Army estimated that it would take approximately three months to demine this area,[29] but the mine clearance was still underway as of May 2000.

Mine Awareness

There are no official mine awareness programs in Chile. In November 1999 the Fundación Nacional por los Derechos del Niño (FNDN) [National Foundation for Children’s Rights], presided by Senator Mariano Ruiz-Esquide, held a seminar on landmines in Chile attended by landmine victims, mayors of affected communities, the Chief of Staff of National Defense, and the UNICEF representative for Chile. The FNDN subsequently held a press conference on the landmine problem. The FNDN press release called for the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Senate to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty, for the government to begin a mine prevention program, and for the Chief of Staff of National Defense to collaborate in the identification, marking, and reporting on Chilean minefields.[30]

Landmine Casualties

There are casualties to landmines every year in Chile but the exact number is hard to determine. According to a newspaper report, the Chief of Staff of the Corps of Engineers of the Army stated that between 1976 and 1999 there have been twenty-six civilians injured and seven killed by landmines. This includes seven wounded and three killed Peruvian citizens engaged in drug-smuggling across the mined border areas. Fifty Chilean military personnel have been injured and five killed in the same period.[31] Colonel Bernardo Castro Salas, Chief of Staff of the Engineers Command of the Army, stated in November 1999 that “while Army minefields were ‘registered,’ those laid by the subversive guerrilla forces were unregistered, and to this he attributed the death of twelve persons and the wounding of seventy-six others during 1976-1999 in Chile.”[32]

The national media continue to report on landmine casualties. In one case in September 1999 a Peruvian entered Chile illegally and walked into a marked minefield.[33] In November 1999 a newspaper article reported that an Army conscript from the “Azapa” 6th Engineers Regiment was seriously injured while putting minefield warning signs near the Chilean-Peruvian border, only 500 meters from the Panamerican highway to Tacna. The conscript apparently stepped on a landmine that was outside the perimeter he was marking.[34] On 4 May 2000 it was reported that a conscript of the “Carampangue” 5th Infantry Brigade was wounded by an AP Mine while jogging outside Fort Baquedano.[35]

In January 2000 a landmine victim filed a legal case against the Chilean government, asking for $500 million pesos (approximately US$933,000) in damages. According to a newspaper article, the individual was on an international road to Argentina in the region of Antofagasta when he was seriously injured by a landmine on the side of the road, losing both hands, an eye and hearing in one ear. The lawyer who has filed the lawsuit is quoted as saying, “The case is against the government, [since] it has responsibility to safeguard citizens from landmines which have not been eradicated.”[36]

Victim Assistance

Military personnel who are injured by landmines receive care in military hospitals. There are no specific services available from the national health service, private health institutions, or NGOs for civilian landmine victims in Chile. The Fondo Nacional de Discapacitados [National Fund for the Disabled] provides social assistance for the disabled, but there are no specific programs for landmine victims. An NGO, Andes Sur Action Team, has recently requested funding for a victim assistance program from the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation, through the Swiss Embassy in Santiago. The intended beneficiaries, the Survivor Network of Atacama Desert, are cooperating in the project.


[1] Interview with Senator Carlos Ominami, President of the Senate’s Revenue Commission, Valparaíso, 3 May 2000.
[2] Statement by Juan Larraín, UN General Assembly First Committee debate, GA/DIS/3140, 11 October 1999.
[3] Declaraci∴n Ofici<l del Gobierno de la Repδblica de Chile, “Moratoria Unilateral en la Producci∴n, Exportaci∴n, Importaci∴n e instalaci∴n de Nuevas Minas Terrestres Antipersonal,” Santiago, Chile, 26 April 1999.
[4] Response to Landmine Monitor questionnaire by the Foreign Ministry of Chile, through its Ambassador to Uruguay, Augusto Bermúdez Arancibia, 2 February 1999.
[5] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 290 for details and types.
[6] Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, on-line update, 19 November 1999.
[7] ICBL (Jody Williams and Liz Bernstein) meeting with Ambassador Mario Artaza, Washington, DC, 7 February 2000. See also follow-up letter from Williams to Artaza, dated 8 February 2000.
[8] Constanza Bornhorn, “Comienza retiro de minas,” Las Últimas Noticias, 19 August 1999.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ecuador’s Article 7 Report, Form B on Stockpiled AP mines, 29 March 2000.
[11] Interview published by La Tercera (Santiago newspaper), 8 September 1997, and reproduced in Clarín (Buenos Aires newspaper), 8 December 1997.
[12] See for example, Agence France Presse (Arica), 18 July 1998 and Agence France Presse (Antofagasta), 21 June 1998.
[13] José Higuera, “Desminado fronterizo: La atrevida promesa de Izurieta,” El Metropolitano, Santiago, 20 December 1999.
[14] Statement by Vice-Admiral Hernán Couyoumdjian, Chief of Staff of National Defense, at the “Análisis de Riesgo y Prevención en Zonas Minadas” (Analysis of risks and prevention in mine-affected zones) Seminar held in the Chilean Senate, Valparaíso, 15 November 1999.
[15] Statement by Dr. Nicolás Larenas at the Seminar held in the Chilean Senate, Valparaíso, 15 November 1999.
[16] “11 Años tomará el retiro de minas,” El Mercurio (Santiago), 26 November 1999.
[17] Jordi Berenguer, “Campos minados podrían atrasar realización del proyecto” and “64 ojos verán el universo,” La Nación, 7 June 1999.
[18] Ibid.
[19] “Statement by the President of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Commission,” Press Release of the Chilean Senate, 15 December 1999; Marcela Ogalde, “US$400 millones cuesta desactivar minas antipersonales,” La Nación, Santiago, 18 November 1999.
[20] Constanza Bornhorn, “Comienza retiro de minas,” Las Últimas Noticias, 19 August 1999.
[21] “11 Años tomará el retiro de minas,” El Mercurio (Santiago), 26 November 1999.
[22] “Senado solicitó al Gobierno informe presupuestario para desminado,” El Mercurio, 13 May 2000.
[23] Constanza Bornhorn, “Comienza retiro de minas,” Las Últimas Noticias, 19 August 1999.
[24] Ibid.
[25] José Higuera, “Desminado fronterizo: La atrevida promesa de Izurieta,” El Metropolitano (Santiago), 20 November 1999.
[26] “Izurieta anunció retiro de minas antipersonales en zones fronterizas,” La Segunda (Santiago), 18 November 1999. “Chile announces the demining of its borders,” Agence France Presse (La Paz), 18 November 1999.
[27] “Chile begins the demining in the border with Bolivia,” Agence France Presse (Santiago), 1 December 1999; “Army Begins To Dismantle Mine Fields,” El Mercurio, (Chilean national newspaper), 1 December 99.
[28] “Concluyó Primera Operación de Desminado,” El Mercurio (Santiago), 4 December 1999. Both mines are of U.S. origin. See also, “277 Landmines Destroyed,” MISNA, Tambo Quemado, Chile, 9 December 1999.
[29] “Chile begins the demining in the border with Bolivia,” Agence France Presse (Santiago), 1 December 1999.
[30] Fundación por los Derechos del Niño, “Acuerdo de Compromiso y Tareas para la Prevención y Asistencia en Comunas con Zonas Minadas,” Valparaíso, 15 November 1999.
[31] “11 Años tomará el retiro de minas,” El Mercurio, (Santiago), 26 November 1999; “Ejército confirma intención de retirar minas antipersonales,” La Hora (Santiago), 25 November 1999.
[32] “11 Años tomará el retiro de minas,” El Mercurio (Santiago), 26 November 1999.
[33] Mauricio Silva, “Un Muerto al Estallar Mina Antipersonal,” El Mercurio (Santiago), 22 September 1999.
[34] “Conscripto herido al estallar mina,” El Mercurio (Santiago), 28 November 1999.
[35] Narciso Donoso, “Soldado pisó explosivo,” El Mercurio (Santiago), 4 May 2000.
[36] “Víctima de mina antipersonal demanda al estado por $500 millones,” La Hora, 13 January 2000.