Ukraine urgently needs a ‘Marshall Plan for Mines’ after 12 months of war and mine laying has left the country with the biggest explosives problem of the 21st century.
HALO, with our operations in 30 countries and territories including Ukraine, has analysed open-source data and compared its previous clearance work in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Mozambique to assess the scale of the task to make Ukraine safe.
The Ukrainian government estimates that around 40 per cent of Ukraine – around 250,000 square kilometres - may need to be searched and cleared of mines and explosives. This equates to an area larger than the United Kingdom. In addition to anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, tens of thousands of artillery shells are being fired every day - with thousands failing to explode.
Open-source satellite imagery indicates there are minefields that stretch for hundreds of kilometres in the east and the south of the country. One single fortified mine line runs 90km from the Russian border to north of the town of Lysychansk in the east. Other images show multiple lines of Russian fortifications north of Melitopol that zigzag for 300km. Similar fortifications were used on the Cambodian border, where a 700km long mine belt was laid in the 1980s.
James Cowan, CEO, The HALO Trust
HALO is working across Ukraine in partnership with the State Emergency Services (SES), the National Mine Action Authority and its Ministry of Defence.
James Cowan, CEO, The HALO Trust
HALO established its Ukraine programme in the Donbas in 2016 and relocated our workforce to the Kyiv oblast in April 2022 so our staff could deliver urgent clearance, community awareness sessions and rapid contamination survey in areas that had been occupied by Russian troops, such as Bucha and Irpin. Over the following months, we expanded our workforce and established operations in Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy and Mykolaiv oblasts. We aim to have 1,200 Ukrainian staff operating across the country by the end of 2023, as well as establishing a global centre for research and development for complex post-war clearance.
“I am proud that my job as a HALO deminer is helping my citizens stay safe during this dark chapter of our history. But it has also given my family a lifeline at a time we have lost almost everything. On behalf of my Ukrainian colleagues, I would like to thank the global community for their support. But I urge the world not to look away as our country enters a second year of displacement and destruction.”
The data released includes examples from HALO’s work in the following countries:
Afghanistan: The country was invaded and heavily mined by the Soviet Union in 1979. Since 2005, Afghanistan has received $1.2 billion for mine clearance
The K5 mine belt in Cambodia is around 700km in length and was laid to prevent the Khmer Rouge from entering Thailand in 1980s and contains an estimated 3000 mines per km. Total global funding for the whole of Cambodia between 2005-2020 was $449m
Mozambique was declared mine-impact free in 2015 after HALO had worked there for over 22 years. Total global funding for mine clearance amounted to over $300m and included clearance of major infrastructure, including the Cahora Bassa hydro-electric dam