The Chilean Navy celebrated this week the destruction of the 200th antipersonnel mine in the extreme south Horno Island, thus eliminating Field 113 from the list of territories that were planted with mines in 1982.
The Hornos Island is the last piece of Chilean continental territory before reaching Antarctica and was cleared of mines by Chilean marines from the Third Naval Zone, based in Punta Arenas.
“March 19 is a historic date because on that day the Chilean Navy with its Land Mines Operations Team removed and destroyed the 200th anti-personnel mine, clearing Field 113”, reported the Third Naval Zone.
The de-mining task was begun a year ago, and the teams will now be moving to other islands and areas in the austral region that were planted with antipersonnel mines in the height of the conflict between Argentina and Chile in 1978/79 and later when the landing of Argentine forces in the Falkland Islands in 1982.
Chile feared that an Argentine victory in Falklands could tempt the Argentine military government to march in claim of disputed islands in the Beagle Channel.
“Working for such an important mission makes me proud of the Chilean Navy contribution to humanity, so people that visit this island at the end of the world can walk freely. We know this is only the beginning, and the challenge ahead is a major task”, said Lieutenant Fernando Ulloa in charge of one of the de-mining teams.
The Hornos Island is visited by hundreds of tourists every week during the austral summer cruise season but from now on they will no longer see the fences or perimeters which protected them from the anti personnel mines.
The “humanitarian de-mining” operations are part of Chile’s commitment following the signing of the Ottawa Convention (for the banning and elimination of anti personnel mines) which were started back in 2002.