10 November 2020

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) welcomes the announcement today, 10 November, by the United Kingdom (UK), that they have completed clearing landmine contamination in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas.[1]

The UK became a State Party to the treaty on 1 March 1999, but did not commence clearance on the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas until 2009. In November 2008, the UK requested, and was granted, a 10-year extension to its Article 5 deadline to clear the mined areas. A further five-year extension was requested in March 2018 and granted through to 1 March 2024.

Last year the UK reported it was making significant progress in the release of mined areas on the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas and predicted that only eight mined areas, covering an estimated 0.16km² would remain to be addressed by the end of March 2020. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, clearance operations were temporarily suspended and aspiration to complete was unclear given related restrictions.

The mined areas, all located in the Yorke Bay area of the islands, were the result of armed conflict with Argentina in 1982.

The UK has reported that no civilian has ever been killed or injured by mines on the islands, however, there have been a number of instances recorded since 2000 of cattle, sheep, or horses entering the minefields some of which resulted in the animals’ deaths.

The socio-economic impact of contamination on the islands is said to be minimal. All mined areas and suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) have been “perimeter-marked and are regularly monitored and protected by quality stock proof fencing, to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians.” According to the UK, mined areas represent “only 0.1% of land used for farming.

The announcement comes just days ahead of the Mine Ban Treaty Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties, and two days prior to release of the Landmine Monitor 2020 report examining, among other issues, progress towards clearing landmines on national territory.

For more information see the Monitor mine action country profiles for the UK and/or Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas.[2]

The UK is also a State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and will be hosting the Tenth Meeting of States Parties in 2021.

[1] Argentina and the UK both claim sovereignty over the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas.

[2] There is also residual unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the 1982 armed conflict, including a number of areas that may contain cluster munition remnants resulting from the use of BL-755 cluster bombs by the UK against Argentine positions. Clearance operations in 2009–2010 across four mined areas encountered and destroyed two submunitions and nine other explosive remnants of war. The precise extent of UXO contamination is not known. The UK has also noted the presence of booby-traps on the islands.