The first essential step before mine clearance is to identify the location of the hazardous area, delineate its boundaries and gather information about the nature of the mines or explosive remnants of war within it.

Surveys provide essential data about the scale of the problem, allowing us to identify the resources needed to clear it and calculate how long it will take. It also allows us to communicate with local communities and establish what the land will be used for once it is cleared. In many cases we work closely with UN agencies, NGOs, and local community based organisations to ensure that the potential of the cleared land is fully realised.

We are often called on by governments to conduct an emergency survey in the immediate aftermath of a conflict and, in exceptional circumstances, during conflict.

Non-Technical Survey

This is the term for the initial process of data gathering to identify minefields and other hazardous areas, using a wide variety of information including interviews, satellite photographs, accident records or military minefield maps. The term non-technical refers to the fact that no physical activity takes place inside the hazardous area. As well as identifying hazardous areas, the non-technical survey process is used to cancel previously recorded areas that turn out not to be mined.

Conducting surveys requires legwork and local trust. We recruit and train survey teams from the area who visit affected communities, meeting residents (men and women), and local authorities. Once people see that the survey teams comprise local people, they are happy to help.

Minefields can also be identified by sight – for example, an area heavily overgrown with vegetation may indicate the presence of mines. In some places, the minefields will be signposted with 'danger' signs.  

Technical survey

This is the term for a process using physical intervention that might include machines or breaching by manual deminers to gather more detailed information about an area which has been already been identified as hazardous, or potentially hazardous.

Technical survey will always follow non-technical survey. HALO very rarely implements technical survey as a discrete activity (i.e. go to a minefield, conduct technical survey for a month, collect information confirming the presence of mines, and then go away again).

The time, effort and cost of conducting technical survey means that it is usually an integral part of the clearance process and is used to determine where to stop, or where to extend, clearance in relation to the area initially defined by the non-technical survey.