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The Mine Action Information Center at James Madison University has partnered with a British EOD consultancy company, C King Associates Ltd, to conduct a preliminary study into the effects of aging on landmines. This project entailed examination and disassembly of several types of anti-personnel mines, a literature review of relevant material and analysis of the initial findings.

The study confirms a fairly obvious assumption: The characteristics of mines change significantly as they grow older. However, while this situation is constantly observed in the field through the recovery of rotted, rusted and damaged mines, it has never been adequately investigated. The literary review found little evidence of any systematic attempt to document the effects of aging, let alone to analyze their implications for mine action.

The traditional assumption is that aging ammunition tends to become “unpredictable,” which is often interpreted as “unstable.” Initial findings from this study indicate that, on the contrary, many aging effects are not only inevitable, but frequently lead to mines becoming inoperative. These findings have far-reaching implications for both the mineaction “industry” and for military operations.

Applications from the findings range from assisting high-level decisions on funding allocation to modifying clearance techniques in the field. Not surprisingly, there are implications for detection and equipment development. Additionally, many of the models and images currently used for recognition training look completely unlike the mines as they appear now, so there are significant implications for improving mine risk education.

It was necessary to severely limit the extent of this initial phase, both technically and geographically; in fact, this important work was delayed for many years because the subject seemed too broad to approach. This effort has highlighted important trends that clearly warrant further investigation; in particular, there is a need to quantify the effects observed and to validate the deductions.

It is recommended that this study serve as a foundation for more analytical work, which expands on the types of mine examined and the regions, or generic conditions, in which they are found. The outcomes from further research on the effects of aging on landmines offer the prospect of allowing substantial savings to program managers through enhanced decision-making and economy of effort; and more importantly, these findings have the real potential to save lives.