A demining team from Zimbabwe has managed to remove all landmines that had been buried in the Falkland Islands of the South Atlantic for almost 40 years.
Falkland Islands, located 13 000 km away in the South Atlantic, have been in British hands for nearly 180 years.
The lethal minefields were buried during the conflict between Britain and Argentina, which left the island littered with the deadly exploding devices.
The demining Zimbabwean team, funded by the United Kingdom (UK) took on the ‘dangerous’ operation in 2009 and cleared thousands of the mines three years before the expected timeframe.
The Zimbabweans worked with supervising staff from British companies, SafeLane Global and Fenix Insight.
The British Embassy in Zimbabwe, said the demining team endured the islands’ challenging physical conditions, often working in remote locations and through the unpredictable and sometimes extreme Falklands weather, to achieve the goal.
“The Falklands Islands are now finally free of lethal minefields almost 40 years after the end of the conflict during which thousands of exploding devices were laid. A UK-funded programme which started in 2009 has completed its dangerous mission to de-mine the islands in the South Atlantic three years ahead of schedule,” said the British embassy in a statement.
The removal of the mines laid during the 1982 conflict with Argentina, means the UK has now met its obligations set by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
“As a result the warning signs and fences that have been a feature on the islands since the end of the conflict will be removed during a local event. The removal of the last mine means there are no anti-personnel mines on British soil anywhere in the world,” said the embassy.
“Islanders will mark the moment with the detonation of the final mine and the cutting down of fences which will finally re-open their access to beaches. Games of cricket and football will be played on the beach itself, to enjoy unrestricted access.”
UK Minister with responsibility for the Falklands, Minister Wendy Morton, described the demining as a huge achievement for the Islands.
“We must pay tribute to the brilliant team of deminers who put their lives at risk day to day removing and destroying landmines to make the Falklands safe. Our commitment to ridding the world of fatal landmines does not end with our territories being mine free. A further £36 million of UK funding will allow demining projects across the world to continue, protecting innocent civilian lives,” she said in the statement.
International reports said one lucky islander would be picked to detonate the last 20 anti-tank devices at the ceremony.
It is also said that more than 24 000 mines and unexploded ordnance were left behind by defeated Argentine troops in 1982.
The British embassy said the UK is one of the world’s leading forces in ridding the world of mines.
An additional £36 million of funding has therefore been given to the UK-funded Global Mine Action Programme Two, bringing the total to £124million, to continue demining projects in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
This funding aimed to recognise that landmines continue to cause harm and damage lives, many years after conflicts are over.