BBC: Trump lifts restrictions on US landmine use

Corporate welfare for the Military Industrial Complex? One study endorsed by high-ranking military officers from several countries found that among 26 conflicts examined since 1940 no case was found in which the use of landmines played a major role in determining the outcome. 4″

The Trump administration approved the U.S. use of land mines. That’s a step back for global campaigns to ban their deployment.

BBC: Trump lifts restrictions on US landmine use

A sign during the annual demonstration by the NGO Handicap International to denounce the use and sale of anti-personnel landminesImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thousands are still killed by landmines every year

US President Donald Trump has lifted restrictions on the deployment of anti-personnel landmines by American forces.

The decision reverses a 2014 Obama administration ban on the use of such weapons, which applied everywhere in the world except for in the defence of South Korea.

The Trump administration said Mr Obama’s policy could put US troops “at a severe disadvantage”.

Thousands of people are injured and killed by landmines every year.

US forces will now be free to use the weapons across the world “in exceptional circumstances”, the White House said.

The US is not a signatory to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which restricts the development or use of anti-personnel land mines.

What has changed?

The Obama-era ban applied to the US military everywhere but on the Korean Peninsula. That exception was made under pressure from military planners, to protect US troops based across the de-militarized zone from the North Korean military.

Mr Obama also ordered the destruction of landmine stockpiles not made to defend South Korea. But the Trump administration has now scrapped that policy, stating that the president was “rebuilding” the US military.

Media captionLandmines: Why do they kill thousands every year?

“The Department of Defense has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama administration’s policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries,” a White House statement said, adding: “The president is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops.”

Mr Trump has given the all-clear for the use of “non-persistent” landmines that can be switched off remotely rather than remaining buried beneath the ground.


Issue On Landmines. This Fact Sheet Provides Statistics On Landmines And Their Victims, Including Where Landmines Are Manufactured, Where They Are Planted, And Who Gets Hurt By Them.


Murder and mutilation are the hallmarks of this indiscriminate weapon that can lie in wait for decades after a conflict has ended. In the heat of battle armies rarely keep track of minefields, let alone the numbers of mines they have deployed. As for mines in stockpiles – the usual reluctance of politicians and defence personnel prevents accurate disclosure. For these reasons landmine estimates are very rough. Figures relating to the wounded and the devastation caused in their lives are more reliable.1


  • There are an estimated 110 million active mines scattered in over 70 countries – in terms of people this translates as one for every 17 children or 52 humans in our world.
  • A further 110 million have been stockpiled.
  • 2,000 people are involved in landmine accidents every month – one victim every 20 minutes. Around 800 of these will die, the rest will be maimed.
  • One de-miner is killed and two are injured for every 5,000 mines cleared.
  • About 100,000 mines are removed each year, but until recently 2 million more were being planted each year.
  • At the current rate it would take 1,100 years to rid the world of mines. That’s assuming no new ones are laid.
Photo by Nic Dunlop/PanosNic Dunlop/Panos

  • The most commonly used mines are cheap ­ between $3 and $30 each ­ but removing them can cost 50 times as much.
  • In 1996 the UN Secretary General increased his estimate of the resources needed to clear all existing mines from $33 billion to over $50 billion. In the same year funding for demining was less than $150 million.3
  • None of this includes the costs of injury, the denial of land, the loss of trade, the impassable roads.
  • One study endorsed by high-ranking military officers from several countries found that among 26 conflicts examined since 1940 no case was found in which the use of landmines played a major role in determining the outcome. 4
Photo by Nic Dunlop/Panos of a man with an artificial legNic Dunlop/Panos


In most arenas of conflict, the mines used are not indigenously produced. Click here to see a large map of the world that illustrates the sources for the landmines in a handful of countries where the problem is particularly severe.


The Worst Affected

Under normal circumstances amputations are very rare. In the US, which does not have a landmines problem, the rate is 1 per 22,000 people.

The leader in sheer number of mines in the ground is Egypt with 23 million (a mixture of anti-tank and antipersonnel), many left over from World War Two, but they haven’t caused large-scale havoc because they are confined to border regions.


The vast majority of casualties are men, often soldiers ­ 87% in Cambodia and 76% in Afghanistan are men. But in some countries women and children account for over 30%.

Children can be undercounted as it is estimated that 85% die before reaching a hospital. In one instance, when refugees returned to Hargeisa in northern Somalia in 1991, 75% of mine victims were children, whose natural playfulness and herding and wood-gathering occupations put them at greater risk.5

graph of what people were doing when the were injured by a landmine


Landmines are found along roads, in fields and forests, beside power pylons, near wells and river banks, in homes and public buildings. As a result they can cause economic paralysis by restricting movement in what are usually agriculture-based economies.

  • Without landmines agricultural production could more than double in both Afghanistan and Cambodia.
  • In Libya 27% of the total arable land is unusable – due to mines left behind from World War Two, over 50 years ago.
  • In Somalia grazing land and water sources have been badly hit. The mining of roads made inflation shoot up.
  • In one region of Angola in 1988 the ICRC estimated the cost of delivering one tonne of relief supplies by rail and truck would have been $89 ­ by aircraft it was $2,200. Similarly in Sudan in 1995, overland aid had to be replaced by air shipments costing $2,000 per tonne.


In war-torn countries medical services are ill-equipped and in disarray. Landmine injuries present a drain on available resources as they require complex surgery and more inputs. Surgical care and the fitting of an orthopaedic appliance cost at least $3,000 per amputee in ‘developing’ countries. For the 250,000 amputees estimated worldwide by the UN this means a bill of $750 million.

  • In Cambodia 61% of mine victims went into debt to pay for their medical treatment. In Afghanistan the proportion was even higher, at 84%.
  • A growing child’s artificial limb should be replaced every six months; adults need a new one once every three to five years. Prostheses cost around $125: for a child of ten with a life expectancy of another 50 years the total cost is about $3,125.
  • In most affected countries rehabilitation services are limited and care for psychological trauma is non-existent.

1 Landmines refers to both antipersonnel and antitank mines. In recent conflicts the former variety has predominated. Unless otherwise indicated, all figures are from the International Committee of the Red Cross document Anti-personnel Mines: An Overview, 1996. The ICRC bases all its figures on landmine numbers on the UN Demining Database.
2 ICRC pamphlet Landmines must be Stopped, 1997.
3 ICRC Position Paper Landmines: crucial decisions in 1997, 1997.
4 ICRC, Anti-personnel Landmines: Friend or Foe?, 1996.
5 Red Cross, Red Crescent, 1997, Issue 2
6 Shawn Roberts and Jody Williams, å, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Washington DC, 1995.