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Most of the mines that currently threaten populations were manufactured more than 50 years ago and many have been in the ground for 30 years or more. Despite the inevitable and obvious deterioration, there has been very little research into the effects of aging on landmines.

In 2008, James Madison University (JMU), the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR), and C King Associates Ltd (CKA) began a study designed to understand the aging process and the range of implications for the various components of mine action. The two-and-a-half year study was funded by grants from the US Department of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs/Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.


The study involved the following four key elements:

1. Field work. The study team worked with demining partner organizations in Cambodia and Jordan, where a range of live mines were located, recovered, disassembled and examined in detail. Geo-referenced images were taken at every stage and soil samples were recovered from around each mine. Further data came from the Falkland Islands, where CKA was conducting similar work. Additional anecdotal information and images were gathered from several other mine-affected regions in which CKA had worked.

2. Scientific analysis. The Science departments at JMU conducted analysis of mine components in order to classify the materials and examine patterns of degradation. The soil samples were analyzed to identify relevant characteristics and look for correlations with the condition of mines.

3. Literature review. A literature review was undertaken to establish what work had already been conducted in this area, although little was found. Once the component materials had been identified, existing research supported observed common degradation effects.

4. Predictive modeling. Theoretical tools were developed in order to model the observed effects. Although basic at this stage, these have the potential to evolve into sophisticated models with which to predict the degradation process across a wide variety of mines.