Chile has cleared 72% of minefields in its territory, and expects to have finished the task by March 2020, according to the head of the country's De-mining Committee Army Colonel Rodrigo Ventura.
The number of minefields in Chile was 194, and we have brought that down to 140, which means 54 are pending, in the extreme regions of Antofagasta and Magallanes, revealed Colonel Ventura.
De-mining operations are the responsibility of specially trained groups of the Chilean Army, which is a task of high risk and the teams include several women.
The data was revealed during a ceremony in which a total of 1.7 million square meters of mine-cleared area were officially delivered to the Chilean National Assets ministry in the north of the country close to the border with Bolivia and Peru.
We have freed 13 fields which are now in the hands of small farmers. It's an important farm area, and it is part of Chile's international commitment with the Ottawa Treaty, and we are announcing that our efforts are geared to the goal of having the Chilean territory cleared of all mines, anti tanks and anti personnel, by autumn 2020, indicated the Chilean Army authorities.
With this last delivery of land ”we have completed the destruction of 31.000 mines, which makes a total of 84.523, of the 113.122, that were 'planted' in the (northern) region of Arica and Parinacota.
In an interesting revelation, Bernardo Veksler, an Argentine historian of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego who regularly writes in the Ushuaia daily Diario Fin del Mundo, pointed out that Chilean military started to plant mines in the disputed Beagle channel islands, extreme south of the continent, in May 1983. Until now it was always believed that the massive mining task by Chileans along neighboring borders was in 1978, fearing a conflict with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
However Veksler says that in 1983, the Chilean military feared that the retreating Argentine dictatorship after the Falklands' defeat, daily protests in the country and political parties reorganizing, could attempt some desperate move or gesture.
At the time the Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands along the Beagle channel were still under demarcation dispute between Chile and Argentina, and an attempt to recover them and plant the Argentine flag could be a desperate move to save the Argentine military honor. Besides the Argentine military were furious with their neighboring peers for extending logistics support to the British during the Falklands' conflict.
And in effect, years later a journalist investigation of the Picton island, where an only family was living, showed there were several minefields, six in total, along cliffs, with 1.307 antipersonnel explosives. In the Nueva island, seven minefields were registered with 1.286 explosives. The areas are clearly signaled and have warning fence perimeters.
As it is known the Argentine dictatorship faded ignominiously, and by December 1983, a freely elected government had taken office in Buenos Aires. However according to Veksler, the mining effort started by Chile four years ago, still has to address the three Beagle islands, plus the islands of Deceit, Freycinet and Hornos, where the oceans change names.