From the middle 1970's to the present, landmines have become a weapon of choice for armies and insurgent groups for many conflicts in the third world. The landmines are sometimes aimed at vehicles or tanks, but more commonly at personnel. Anti-personnel mines are small, and are not designed to kill directly. They are designed to cause severe and lasting injuries, that have an on-going economic consequence for society to which the maimed return.
Many modern anti-personnel are of simple and cheap construction. These mines are often constructed of plastic with little metal content, and are virtually undetectable by magnetic or electronic means. An estimated one hundred million have been spread over sixty two countries. An example of a plastic mine is the butterfly mine. Such mines have a very long life and are attractive to children; they are soft and look like a toys. A child by squeezing the thicker side several times, will release the firing pin, thus removing the playing hand.
Propositions for the total banning of landmines have been put forward by both national and private organisations. In the very best of worlds mines would never have been invented, and no problem would exist. In our present world, the acceleration of insurgencies and examples of irregular warfare, will only see more use of landmines in the future. Conventions to ban their manufacture, export and use will be ignored by countries and groups who through lack of cash, military and civil discipline, and morals, will see the landmine as a 'fair' weapon. Emphasising the advantage of having a mine with an 'inactive laid by date' is the best answer to problems caused by their future use.
The creation of a passive system for disarming landmines is considered as the most appropriate way of ensuring that such weapons have a destructive life that will end when their use as a weapon is no longer desired. The passive system should be such that it will not significantly add to the cost of manufacture. A process where landmines degrade so that they are incapable of detonation is being proposed. Biologically activated degradation is considered the best means of achieving that end.
M.E.T.T.S. (Dr. Michael Clarke) is interested in developing the technology for the bio-degradable ordnance that includes landmines. The acceptance of such ordnance by the military and the civilian governments of the developed (and civilised) world is seen as a key factor in the development of such weapons. Please see the attached paper for a fuller discussion.
Click here to read the article on Biodegradable Landmines