International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
Printer Friendly VersionTell a friend about this page

What is a Landmine?

Antipersonnel landmines claim victims in every corner of the globe each day. Incapable of distinguishing between the footfall of a soldier and that of a child, they remain a threat long after the end of a conflict.

An Iranian YM-1 blast antipersonnel mine. Photo: J. Rodsted

An Iranian YM-1 blast antipersonnel mine. Photo: J. Rodsted

Antipersonnel landmines are explosive devices designed to injure or kill people. They lie dormant for years and even decades under, on or near the ground until a person or animal triggers their detonating mechanism. Antipersonnel mines cannot be aimed: they indiscriminately kill or injure civilians, soldiers, peacekeepers and aid workers alike.

Made of plastic, metal or other materials, they contain explosives and some contain pieces of shrapnel. They can be activated by direct pressure from above, by pressure put on a wire or filament attached to a pull switch, by a radio signal or other remote firing method, or even simply by the proximity of a person within a predetermined distance.

When triggered, a landmine unleashes unspeakable destruction. The blast causes injuries like blindness, burns, destroyed limbs and shrapnel wounds. Sometimes the victim dies from the blast, due to loss of blood or because they don't get to medical care in time. Those who survive and receive medical treatment often require amputations, long hospital stays and extensive rehabilitation.

Stepping on a blast antipersonnel mine will invariably cause foot and leg injuries, and secondary infections usually resulting in amputation. Fragmentation mines project hundreds of metal fragments, showering the victim with deep wounds. Bounding fragmentation mines are more powerful versions: they spring up about 1 meter and then explode, firing metal fragments to a large radius.

An MM-1 fragmentation antipersonnel mine (upper) and an MM-2 blast antipersonnel mine (lower). Myanmar Defense Products Industries mines lifted by insurgents on Bangladesh-Burma border. Photo: Nonviolence Intl

An MM-1 fragmentation antipersonnel mine (upper) and an MM-2 blast antipersonnel mine (lower). Myanmar Defense Products Industries mines lifted by insurgents on Bangladesh-Burma border. Photo: Nonviolence Intl

The Mine Ban Treaty defines an antipersonnel mine as: "a mine designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons." (Article 2.1)

Landmines are everywhere. According to Landmine Monitor, 66 states and seven areas not internationally recognized are confirmed or suspected to be mine-affected.

Nobody knows how many mines are in the ground. But the actual number is less important than their impact: it can take only two or three mines or the mere suspicion of their presence to render a patch of land unusable.