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New funds go into clearing Falklands mines

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Stanley, Falkland Islands (UPI) Jan 18, 2011
New funds have gone into clearing mines planted on the Falkland Islands by Argentine forces during the 1982 conflict with Britain that cost more than 1,000 lives and left a legacy of deadly ordnance in some of the most popular pubic sights on the territories.

Officials said funds from the British government would allow the de-mining operation to begin this year after evaluation visits by experts and officials from London in February.

Some of the capital's scenic spots were declared off limits to citizens after the 74-day war, which erupted after Argentine forces backed by a military dictatorship tried to seize the islands.

Argentina retreated after the British military operation but has continued claiming sovereignty, citing historical evidence that Argentines -- under Spanish colonial rule -- colonized the islands before British settlers set up their community.

The focus of the second phase of the de-mining operation would be on minimum metal mines that are usually hard to detect.

Although no decision was made about the choice of a de-mining expert firm, the previous operation was conducted by the Battle Area Clearance, Training, Equipment and Consultancy Group of companies.

The area known as Stanley Common, to the south of Stanley, is most likely to be chosen for the mine clearance operations.

Before Argentine troops laid the mines there, the grounds were used for leisure activities including hiking and horseback riding. Other contaminated areas include grounds near a stone corral built by Jacob Napoleon Goss in 1860 southwest of Stanley.

The first phase of the de-mining operation was completed BACTEC International Ltd. in June 2010.

There were four clearance tasks at that time, including two known minefields close to Stanley, Sapper Hill and Surf Bay, which both had detailed records and one suspect hazardous area in each of the Goose Green and Fox Bay Camp areas.

On completion of that phase the de-mining program officer in Stanley, Robin Swanson, said, "… the U.K. government will have a much better understanding about the challenges of the remaining mined areas" which numbered about 113.

He said the first phase cleared about 5 percent of the mines buried in Falklands' grounds.

However, he said, the operation will definitely be able to inform future projects about the technical, environmental and logistic challenges associated with clearance in the Falkland Islands and provide more accurate planning data for follow-on phases.

BACTEC International, which carried out previous operations in Falklands, has been involved with mine clearing in Australia, Laos, Lebanon, Libya and Mozambique and about 35 other countries.



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