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Country Reports
Falkland/Malvinas, Landmine Monitor Report 2003


The Falklands/Malvinas, administered by the United Kingdom but claimed by Argentina, have been a disputed territory since the nineteenth century. The islands’ landmine problem stems from the 1982 conflict, during which both parties laid thousands of antipersonnel and antitank mines, including remotely-delivered mines. Mined areas are located mainly at the beaches and in peat areas.[1] The Falkland Islands government reports that, “... there are 101 minefields, but these are all clearly marked, safely fenced off and checked regularly. They cover a total area of 20 sq. km and contain 16,600 mines. Minefield maps are available and no civilian has been injured by mines or by unexploded ordnance to date.”[2]

Both Argentina and the UK are States Parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and since the islands are under the authority of the United Kingdom, the UK is obliged, under Article 5 of the treaty, to clear the island territory of antipersonnel mines by 1 March 2009, ten years after the treaty entered into force.

Following three and a half years of negotiations, on 11 October 2001, Argentina and the UK and agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the establishment of a feasibility study on mine clearance in the islands.[3] According to the MOU, the costs of the feasibility study will be shared by both parties, in direct proportion to the number of mines laid by each party during the 1982 conflict. Thus, Argentina will be responsible for most of the financial costs, while it is expected that the UK will take care of technical aspects of the study. Total costs of the feasibility study are estimated at $2 million; in 2002, Argentina budgeted $1 million for the study.[4]

No significant progress was made to initiate the feasibility study during 2002 or the first half of 2003. A UK-Argentine Working Group established to work on the feasibility study has not met since 3-4 December 2001.[5] On 5 March 2003, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said, “The UK has appointed a National Mine Action Authority to allow for future work in the Falklands, in line with International Mine Action Standards. We remain committed to the feasibility study and to moving ahead as soon as Argentine funds become available,” in response to a parliamentary question.[6] Argentina’s offer to fund the removal of the mines no longer looks certain following the country’s severe economic crisis in 2002 and 2003.

In June 2003, a representative of the Falkland Islands government provided the following policy statement to Landmine Monitor:

The Falkland Islands Government believes there are other countries such as Cambodia, Afghanistan, Angola, the Balkans and Mozambique that deserve priority over de-mining as many innocent people are killed regularly by unmarked mines. ... Until there is a way mines in the Islands can be cleared without any risk to the operatives doing it, with an absolute certainty that the area is totally clear, we would like to see resources used elsewhere, where people are being injured every day while going about their daily lives.[7]

An Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operation Center in Port Stanley provides warnings on the landmine danger to the islands’ communities and visitors. Full details of warning measures are included in every Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report submitted by the UK. No mine casualties were reported in the Falklands/Malvinas in 2002 or the first half of 2003.

[1] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 423.
[2] Email to Landmine Monitor (HRW) from Sam A-Bailey, CSMM, Falkland Islands Government Office, London, 25 June 2003; see also www.falklandislands.com.
[3] Landmine Monitor (Argentina) interview with Guillermo Rossi, Directorate of Malvinas and South Atlantic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Buenos Aires, 10 April 2002.
[4] Ibid; see also, “Desminado binacional en Malvinas,” Página 12 (Buenos Aires), 12 October 2001.
[5] Email to Landmine Monitor (HRW) from Ralph M. Jones, Falklands Desk Officer, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 30 June 2003.
[6] Hansard, 5 March 2003, Col. 1069W.
[7] Email from Sam A-Bailey, Falkland Islands Government Office, London, 25 June 2003.