CHALLENGES that will face de-mining in the Falklands compared to other parts of the world are on the whole, “not new” said a UK official during her visit this week.
Judith Gough, Security Policy Directorate, Foreign & Commonwealth Office qualified this, however, saying the de-mining of the peaty terrain was a first, “…but not complex”
Two Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence officials paid an introductory demining visit to the islands between March 2 and 6, and the pair, Lt Colonel Scott Malina-Derben and Ms Gough, spoke to Falklands Media on Thursday.
They explained that initially approximately three areas would be selected for initial de-mining work. Mrs Gough said having spoken to Islanders it had been suggested that the area at the back of Surf Bay near Stanley would be a useful place to begin, as the beach itself is a popular recreational area.
They said the purpose of the visit was to consult the Falkland Islanders about the UK Government’s initial plans to clear certain mined areas in the islands. The clearance follows on from the completion of the Joint UK-Argentine Feasibility Study into de-mining in the Falkland Islands completed in October 2007. Under the Convention of the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and On Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention) the UK Government has an obligation to clear the 117 mined areas in the Falklands by 2019
During their visit they met with Members of the Legislative Assembly, Government officials and members of the community and visited a number of mine fields.
Ms Gough said, “It was a productive visit and the UK Government officials appreciated the feedback, advice and assistance they received. Whilst it is the responsibility of the UK Government to clear the mined areas, UK officials will continue to work closely with the Falkland Islands Government on clearance of these mined areas, and have invited the Falkland Islands Government to participate in the National Mine Action Authority, which will be responsible for overseeing the demining work in the Falklands.”
At this early stage in the procurement process the UK officials were unable to provide precise timings on when clearance will commence. However, it is anticipated that the tender documentation will issue in April and the aim is to have awarded the contract by the end of this year with the demining operation to begin shortly thereafter.
The UK officials were accompanied by Cranfield University staff. Cranfield University carried out the Field Survey that formed part of the Feasibility Study into clearance of landmines in the Falkland Islands that was completed in October 2007: they are now engaged by the FCO in an advisory capacity.
Ms Gough would not comment on the cost of demining the Falklands but confirmed it would be funded by the FCO.
By Lisa Johnson - SeAled PR - Stanley