“This is amazing work by people doing a great job allowing communities to get back out and live their lives in rural Colombia, so thank you very much." Fletcher Tabuteau, Under-Secretary of State, New Zealand.
Last week, Fletcher Tabuteau, Under-Secretary of State for the New Zealand Government, attended a presentation to demonstrate the humanitarian mine clearance work currently being carried out by The HALO Trust in Colombia. Since July 2017, thanks to the generous support of the New Zealand Government, HALO has been advancing the use of thermite technology to destroy landmines and unexploded ordnance, a legacy of Colombia’s years of conflict. This is an important area of development as in Colombia the use of explosives by civilian organisations is forbidden, meaning traditional means of destroying explosive remnants of war (ERW) with an explosive charge cannot be used. However, HALO has been able to successfully evolve the use of thermite technology to burn through the casing and burn away the explosive within.
As a result of the project and thanks to the input of HALO a National Standard for the use of thermite has now been established. To date, 11 HALO staff have gained accreditation as thermite technicians and training has also been given across the wider mine action community. The support of the New Zealand Government for this project means HALO is able to quickly and safely remove the lethal threat of explosive remnants of war from at-risk communities across Colombia.
The project with New Zealand also supports a non-technical survey team to work in the Meta region. This team gathers information in the field and interviews local people (who are often the best source of information about the location of mines) so that safe and dangerous areas can be identified. When dangerous areas are located, HALO’s demining teams can begin work to clear them of landmines. The safe land can then be returned to the community, allowing people displaced during the years of fighting to return, development projects to begin and lives to be rebuilt.
Thermite being used to destroy an explosive remnant of war in Colombia