Military Surplus

What’s Mine is Mine

Land mines are horrific devices. The term comes from tunnels (“mines”) dug under an opposing army into which sappers would lay charges. The tunnel would collapse, trapping the enemy soldiers in a big hole, then hot oil or other devious solutions of death would be poured in. The Chinese created triggered black powder land mines as early as the 13th century AD, and they found widespread use in Europe and Asia from the Middle Ages all the way up to today. In modern military tactics, land mines are used to either deny tactically advantageous land to an opposing force, or as a means of channeling an invading army into an area that gives the invadees an adavantage.

The problem is, not all the mines are exploded. In some places, such as Afghanistan or Cambodia, governments and revolutionaries would lay mines almost indiscriminately. The mines are indiscriminate, too, in who they kill, and they last much longer than the conflict in which they were laid. Today, land mines are to blame for around 20,000 deaths a year, according to the UN.

Hit the jump for a video of a man named Aki Ra, who is clearing mines in his home country of Cambodia with nothing more than a few tools and balls of tungsten carbide.

[youtube width=”420″ height=”315″][/youtube]

[Image Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux]

  • fodder650

    What has become oddly interesting about this is how land mines morphed into IED's for the modern day guerrilla fighter. Where a nation could scatter hundreds of thousands of mines today's guerrilla fighter has gotten pretty good at laying a handful of IED's and inflicting the same amount of damage a full field of mines would do before.

    I am by no means suggesting this is a good thing. In my head, at least, it comes off as an interesting side effect of a nations use of such weapons. In times of war it's meant to deny forces of men and material. The same can be said of the IED. Just as it will be decades before we get rid of the mines from all the wars of the 20th century it will be another 60-70 years until we find all the unexploded IED ordnance.

    • Very true, and I did look into what the difference is. Generally, it's considered a land mine if it was manufactured and is deployed by a nation. It's and IED if it's improvised (hence the I) and is deployed by paramilitary forces.

      The effect, though, is the same.

      • fodder650

        I wasn't trying to limit your article by saying that. Actually just speaking my mind. If I remember isn't there video of a country that clears the mines using a stick and shovel. Where the guy walks real slow and just pokes the ground. When he finds the mine it's dug out and deactivated?
        Not sure where this was but for some reason 60 minutes keeps coming to mind.

        • Sounds very similar to the video above!

      • From what little bit I've seen on the news it seems to be common to make IEDs from artillery shells. Those make for a much bigger boom than most land mines. It is pretty easy for the bad guys to truck away a couple of cases of shells, a little harder to tow away the field piece to lob them.

  • coupeZ600

    Leatherman Wave! I Knew those things were good for something!

    • I believe that's an off-brand replica. It doesn't look right compared against… mine.

      • The Professor

        Mine is an older model.

        • Oh, I've got a PST, too. I carried it for a few years, then a Super Tool, then a Wave. In each case I bought a new model when the main blade on the old one finally got too dull for use. I wish I had some idea of how to sharpen them.

          • The Professor

            You must have missed last Tuesday's article then. That's what you get for going out and haring around the countryside, bashing rocks with a hammer. My last sharpening article shows you how to put a quick edge on a knife. The next one will deal with how to produce a more refined edge.

  • B72

    The video showed him disarming the mines, but it didn't say how he found them.

    I found an article that describes how they find them in Africa, They use trained rats! Not sure how thy disarm them though. Check this out:

  • texlenin

    I understand that a great many mines are plastic,
    but are there any systems in the pipeline that use
    ground-penetrating radar or the like to scan for
    the little evil bastards?
    Also, read up on the French national ammo-
    clearing squads. Enough stuff to keep them busy
    to this day.

  • I'm partial toward skid-steer loader based demining/anti-IED machines…
    [youtube UamDSfr6SWk youtube]

    • B72

      Cool! It's remote control!

      Impressive that the rubber tires hold up.

    • FЯeeMan

      In proper military fashion, Minotaur is used to detect and "interogate" IEDs.

      All right you crusty little so-and-so, tell me where your trigger is or I'll beat it out of you!

  • highmileage_v1

    Prior to my 'Stan vacation I went through some training that involved trying to enter a house that had various devices planted by sappers. Let's just say that it reaches a point where you think breathing will set something off. My advice is to stand off and use something that creates a bigger bang to clear a path.

  • mindsclearinglandmines

    To find out more about land mine clearance technology, go to, a WordPress blog. There's a list of links on the right hand side of the blog to recent articles, videos, etc. about the subject. And don't forget to watch to the Parry Gripp HeroRAT musical video. (from Laurel Anne Hill, moderator of the Minds Clearing Landmines blog and Facebook page.)