Four years of de-mining" operations in Tierra del Fuego (Chile)

Four years are needed to clear the five minefields planted by the Chilean Army in northern Tierra del Fuego, although one of them will be officially certified as "de-mined" at the end of 2008 according to Chilean Defence ministry sources, reports La Prensa Austral from Punta Arenas.


The information was revealed during a recent visit of Chilean Defence minister Jose Goñi Carrasco and the Commander of the Army General Oscar Izurieta to express praise and support to the special military teams involved in de-mining operations in Bahía Azul, Tierra del Fuego, 170 kilometers from Punta Arenas.

Following the testimonial destruction of an anti personnel mine Minister Goñi Carrasco announced that the de-mining budget had been increased to 9.6 million US dollars for the purchase of state of the art equipment.

"This year we've had a significant increase in resources to equip the special brigades working in the fields. The most state of the art equipment plus the technology that will enable us to certify that the fields have been effectively cleared of mines", said Goñi Carrasco, and thus comply with the mine clearance Ottawa Treaty "of which Chile is signatory and we are strictly honoring".

According to Chilean Army information de-mining operations in the country begun in 2004 and so far 12% of the 123.000 anti personnel mines planted in different strategic areas of the country have been destroyed.

In Magallanes Region work begun in 2006 and so far 628 mines have been destroyed and this is mostly because given terrain conditions and the weather it's only possible to advance during summer months.

Punta Arenas Army Engineers Regiment commander Colonel Orlando Mendoza said that the job is performed under utmost security and safety conditions. "It's a highly technical, rigorous and slow job, but we must ensure the physical integrity of our personnel and that explosive elements are entirely removed".

"Atmospheric conditions must be optimal and this is not common in Magallanes so we spend a lot of time in other tasks such as informing residents about the danger of these lethal explosives and although fields are signaled, surrounding areas have also become dangerous because of rain and other factors", said Colonel Mendoza.

Bahía Azul has five mines fields of which one of them (number 14) should be certified as cleared by the end of 2008 since "we've eliminated all anti personnel and anti tank mines in that area".

Given the precision, rigor and conditions of the de-mining operations in the area Colonel Mendoza said that "we still have four years ahead of us and once we've certified the clearance, we have four more fields with anti personnel mines in San Sebastián, also in Tierra del Fuego".

The fields mined by the Chilean Army are along border areas with Argentina, Peru and Bolivia, dating back to thirty years, when the possibility of an armed conflict was considered highly possible.

Von:, 29.02.2008

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