Wednesday, March 26th 2008 - 21:00 UTC

Chile to spend millions removing borders' landmines

Chile will spend nine million dollars this year to remove thousands of land mines planted along the Argentine, Bolivian and Peruvian borders during a territorial dispute in the late 1970s, according to a report published this week.

The expenditure is part of a process that began in 2005. More than 70% of the 450.000 mines planted during the dispute have been cleared but 123.000 remain in hard-to-reach border areas, Defence Minister José Goñi told El Mercurio. Goñi further said that he would send a report to Bolivia, Perú and Argentina with details of the project. He added that he wanted operations to be as clear as possible. "Removing mines is a very difficult job as the working conditions are tough," Goñi said. "Some of the mines are located five meters deep while others are in southern areas where it is only possible to work two weeks per year due to bad weather". The project will be officially announced next week at the International Space and Air Fair (FIDAE), in Santiago de Chile. The government has pledged to remove all its landmines by 2016. The late Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet planted the mines in 1978 during a dispute with Argentina over the three islands in the southern Beagle Channel, also ordering explosives planted along the Bolivian and Peruvian borders out of fear they would ally with Argentina. Mediation by Pope John Paul II averted war. The landmines have killed dozens of people, most of them traffickers smuggling drugs into Chile from the north. Chilean Foreign Ministry official Luis Winter lost both legs during an inspection of de-mining work near the Peruvian border in 2005.

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