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close this bookThe Fight Against Antipersonnel Mines (European Community, 1997, 108 p.)
close this folderChapter VI: Development and co-ordination of a local capacity
View the document1. A necessary co-ordination
View the document2. Principles and methodology for the development of a local capacity
View the document3. Mine clearance schools

3. Mine clearance schools


It seems that for various political, technical and economic reasons, it is necessary to train local mine-clearance operators. The creation of local schools is one priority in the process of peace restoration. It represents a very important normalization symbol for the populations, as school represents the first tangible evidence of the end of the hostilities and of the cooperation among former adversaries. Within this structure, the dangerous collective national restoration mission they will undertake is likely to arouse team spirit, friendship and solidarity. However it is not always considered a priority in countries where so much needs to be done for peace restoration. This training should then be integrated within a global mine action program set up and financed by international aid.

Future deminers should be chosen among demobilised soldiers from all the various factions so as to give a strict image of neutrality to the population. Not too much should be expected from their demining abilities, though, which are usually nil. This is the reason why training and instruction should be the responsibility of foreign civilian or military experts.


Both the quality and the quantity of local deminers guarantee the efficacy and quickness of a mine action program. All attention should then be drawn to the early organization of the training facilities. The cost for training a deminer depends on the program. It is estimated at $ 6,000. The experience drawn from Afghanistan shows that the cost for training represents between 4 and 10 % of the total annual budget of the mine action program. Such an investment should be made early enough so as to make it possible from the beginning of the program to cover expenses related to purchase of equipment and installation of the school. Thus the necessity to have a sufficient and immediately available budget.

The objective of the deminer training school in Luanda is to train as many as 3,000 mine clearance agents. Through the creation of humanitarian schools, some personnel could be trained in identification of mined areas and public information. The centre of Risalpur, where Afghan deminers are being trained in Pakistan, accommodated up to 77 foreign instructors who taught 20 classes in basic mine clearance simultaneously. In Mozambique, 200 indigenous deminers were trained within 6 weeks, with a student-to-instructor ratio of 6, which appears as the optimal ratio.


The scope of the training should be restricted to the actual needs of the country and adapted based on their ability to learn. Detection, identification and destruction of some types of mines should be the main objective. The trainees should not be expected to become experts in neutralization or to engage in destruction of specifically treacherous ammunitions presenting chemical or biological hazards.


The creation of a mine clearance school is a priority requiring the co-operation and assistance of the country concerned. The school should be located in a vast area not polluted by metal objects, and if possible in the vicinity of a big city. The site should have running water available, be supplied with electricity, be accessible via a decent road and if possible have housing facilities for the trainees. Health security, including means of evacuation, should be provided just like it is provided in regular worksites.

The school should be able to give a basic training but also to provide specialized tuition to the people who will be in charge of management and administration.

The trainees should be chosen among young motivated people very willing to acquire the bases of a serious and useful training. However, they should not be selected based on school achievements, as they generally have no qualification. The average compensation offered to a local deminer is between US$ 120 and 150 per month. This is a decent compensation that gives candidates an incentive and allows the individuals performing the selection to be particularly strict.

For psychological reasons, candidates who have been the victims of mines in the past should not be systematically discarded, provided their disability does not make them unfit and their psychological state is satisfactory. The issue of illiteracy of the trainees is not a major obstacle as training is based on the observation of sketches or equipment rather than reading, and on the practice of behaviors adapted to various situations.

The trainees should understand that unlike military practice, the success of mine clearance is determined by quality and not by swiftness. They have to learn meticulousness and acquire a good working method. Although no longer in the military, the trainees should be trained to a strict discipline. Their activity is dangerous for themselves and for the others. The discipline of the team is linked to individual meticulousness. It is necessary to wear a uniform, not only for the sake of identification, but also to reinforce the cohesion within the group and its identification by the population as peace keepers.


All mine clearance agents working in the same country must have received the same training. As instructors might come from various origins, it is critical to make sure that they use the same methods. For this purpose, they should have the same training manuals, not only with regards to the techniques used in the field, but also to safety measures and administration.


Some NGO's have already started in this direction by taking advantage of their good integration within the countries concerned, which enables them to solve communication problems in particular.

As an example, these are two typical training programs for local mine clearance operators. The first one is from the DHA; it is implemented in the main Afghan mine clearance school, in Alalabad (Pakistan). The second one is offered by NPA (Norvegian People Aid).


- basic mine clearance (individual training): 15 days
- surveying minefields: 15 days
- preliminary deployment (group and team training): 10 days
- training of the instructors: 7 days
- training of the team leaders: 15 days
- training of radio operators: 7 days
- maintenance of mine detectors: 42 days
- driving lessons: 7 days
- refresher training2: 5 days
- para-medical techniques: 30 days
- training of dog-handlers: 60 days
- training of chief technician: 7 days.


The training program offered by this great para-public Norvegian association is implemented in Mozambique and consists in three steps.

- 6 weeks of training in mine clearance followed by 8 to 12 weeks actual work in a minefield;

- 2 weeks of training for the team manager, followed by 10 months actual work as a team manager;

- 2 weeks of training for the chief technician, followed by 8 months actual experience as a chief technician in the worksite.

The instructors are very present at the beginning of these training programs but they are barely seen at the end. This principle is consistent with attainment of autonomy via training and transfer of expertise.


This is critical in such an activity, where the slightest weakening in competences may be fatal. The school should then provide the capacity to accommodate trainees for periodical and compulsory review sessions. The frequency of these sessions should be yearly, plus they should be completed by sessions in the field twice a year. The whole training is completed internally. It calls upon formerly trained local instructors, plus a small number of foreign experts.

The question as to what type of equipment the deminers should be trained on is an important one as it will determine the purchase policies. For safety reasons as well as for the sake of educational and operational consistency, it is recommended to use only one type of detector, and the same holds true for protective equipment and clothing. Obviously this causes co-ordination problems between the persons in charge of training and the supervising authorities.

Training indigenous mine clearance operators is an absolute priority. The school may be unique, or, as is the case in huge territories like Angola, be divided up into several sites. In this case, the general organization of the training must be very strict and set by the main Centre for Training.

The creation of mine clearance schools must be an inherent part of national mine action programs. As we will discuss in the following, because of the high cost of training, these schools should provide the trainees with a much broader intervention capacity concerning all aspects of the rehabilitation, and also with a very comprehensive knowledge of developmental techniques