The Falkland Islands Executive Council (ExCo) approved a proposal to remove the fences which secured former minefield sites around the Islands over a three-year period of 2021 to 2024.
The mines, a legacy from the Argentine occupation of the Islands in 1982, ---some 20,000, mostly antipersonnel but also anti tanks---, had remained marked and out of bounds in fenced areas with warning MINES signs in red, and the skull and crossed bones.
The minefields were located in strategic defense areas surrounding the capital Stanley and some of the settlements.
Several generations of Islanders have been born since the end of the conflict, and the minefields, and for those who lived through the ordeal of the Argentine military invasion and occupation, they had become part of the landscape with little hopes of a return to the original beauty, and safety, of the Islands' environment.
As one of the several precautionary measures children in the Islands were taught at school about the dangers of mine fields and to recognize the different explosives, that the Argentines had planted.
However despite certain skepticism, in 2009 a program to remove the mines was initiated as part of UK's obligations under the international anti-personnel mine ban convention.
In November 2020 the eleven year demining program, working in summer months, finally culminated, with the clearance of 122 minefields. The team of experts from Zimbabwe, under the guidance of Guy Marot, head of the Demining Program Office, suffered only two minor accidents in their successful task.
So on 14 November under the banner of Reclaim the Beach, Stanley residents celebrated the termination of the last mines and the opening of Yorke Bay, a wonderful stretch of the coastline with sand meadows and pristine water, now partly a penguins habitat, which for almost forty years had been banned for strolls, jogging and picnics.
Last November 19 the UK made an official presentation in Geneva before the meeting of States parties Antipersonnel mine ban Convention of the feat. Permanent representative at the Conference, Aidan Liddle said, ”I am proud to announce today that (Falklands) clearance operations concluded on Saturday 14 November. The UK and its overseas territories are now free of anti-personnel mines.
The UK has thus fulfilled its obligations under Article 5 of the Convention. In line with Action 25 of the Oslo Action Plan
So in the Falklands, given the successful reclaim ExCo decided on a project which will include the removal of between 95 and 108km of existing fence and the replacement of roughly 18km of fence – “to keep the public and surrounding biodiversity safe”.
The endeavor will give priority to works at Fox Bay and Yorke Bay, beginning works on their sites in 2021/22.
Following this 2022/23 will move the works onto Stanley Common, and then 2023/24 will expand focus from Stanley Common onto Murrell Farm.
The ExCo paper explained “due to their age and dangerous nature, these derelict fences have been the subject of many complaints and safety concerns.”
Sites which are to have fence replaced are Yorke Bay, Fox Bay West, Wall Mt, Longdon, Sapper Hill, Stone Corral, Eliza Cove and Phillips Point – lengths ranging from 0.65km at Phillips Point, to 5.02 at Fox Bay West.
These fences may be standard wire “for grazing or conservation management purposes.” (PN/MP)