Falkland Islands cleared of mines nearly 40 years since war

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A campaign has finally cleared the Falkland Islands of thousands of mines laid during the war there almost 40 years ago.

The project removed the estimated 13,000 lethal devices that were still buried on the islands.

The war began in April 1982, following an invasion by Argentinian forces. Despite their proximity to mainland Argentina, the islands have been a British dependency since the mid-19th century.

 A sign warning of mines on the Falkland Islands – a common sight since the war in 1982.
A sign warning of mines on the Falkland Islands – a common sight since the war in 1982.

The British government responded to the invasion by sending a naval taskforce to the islands within weeks, and after a short campaign Argentinian forces surrendered in June that year. Despite the restoration of British rule, the sovereignty of the islands remains a source of tension between the countries.

Since the war ended, no-go areas have been a feature of life on the sparsely populated islands. But, with the completion of the project in November last year, inhabitants now have access to areas, including beaches, that were previously unsafe.

The operation, which began in 2009, was the work of a specialist team from Zimbabwe, supervised by British companies SafeLane Global and Fenix Insight.

Despite the challenging terrain, the project was completed three years ahead of schedule. It means the UK has now met its obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, of which it is a signatory. No anti-personnel mines remain on British soil anywhere in the world.

Commenting on the news, Wendy Morton – British minister with responsibility for the Falklands – said: ‘This is a huge achievement for the islands and we must pay tribute to the brilliant team of de-miners who put their lives at risk day to day removing and destroying landmines to make the Falklands safe.’

This is an article from the February/March 2021 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.

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