Plans to clear Falkland landmines (UK)
Multi-million pound plans to finally rid the Falkland Islands of thousands of deadly landmines left behind by Argentinian forces 26 years ago are being considered in Whitehall.
The move comes after a ground-breaking study concluded for the first time that it would be possible to clear the estimated 16,000 devices littering the islands in the wake of the 1982 conflict.
The task was long thought impossible because of the harsh weather conditions, difficult terrain and delicate eco-systems - including rare penguins' nesting sites - surrounding mined areas.
But experts sent to the islands under a unique Anglo-Argentine deal resulting from the worldwide ban on landmines, have concluded that the task would be "challenging but technically possible".
It is understood Foreign Office officials are now putting together a list of options for ministers on how to proceed with a formal decision expected within the next year to 18 months.
Discussions with potential private contractors for the work are set to begin within that period.
No pricetag has been published but Foreign Offices sources indicated it is likely to cost tens of millions of pounds.
The discussions come too late to prevent Britain missing a 2009 deadline to remove all anti-personnel mines from its territory imposed under the 1997 Ottawa Convention, one of the central achievements of early New Labour foreign policy.
The UK is now expected to apply for an extension from other signatories, some of whom are also likely to miss the deadline.
Argentinian forces laid approximately 20,000 mines during their 10-week occupation of the remote South Atlantic territory in 1982.
Von: 27.4.2008, ukpress.google.com