Since May 2003, MineTech International has maintained an almost full time presence on the ground in Southern Iraq, with some ninety MineTech explosive ordnance disposal and mine clearance professionals employed by the UN to tackle the extensive legacy of mine and explosive ordnance contamination.
In June 2003, MineTech survey teams were asked to conduct the National Emergency Survey, gathering data on the effect of Operation Eduring Freedom in Southern Iraq. As a result, eight teams have been working to identify populated areas within each of the eight governates in Southern Iraq, pinpointing dangerous areas within close proximity.
After three major conflicts there is an enormous accumulation of Explosive Remnants of War(ERW) across the country dating back to the early 1980s. Ammunition that elsewhere would have been destroyed has been dumped in rural areas. Much has deteriorated due to the high saline content in the soil.
Added to this is the large amount of ammunition stockpiled by the Iraqi military. With the breakdown of law and order, much of this ammunition has been removed from storage and the more valuable components removed and sold in Iran. The contents of ransacked munitions crates has been abandoned and spread over a wide area and the ground is contaminated with loose propellant.
MineTech teams found large quantities of ordnance ranging from stored ammunition to abandoned Explosive Ordnance(EO). The EOD clearance teams have faced a wide range of challenges, due both to the scale of the project and the state of the explosive materials, often rusty and corroded and sometimes buried up to a metre deep. Latest estimates suggest a further 1,000,000 tonnes of ammunition scattered over Iraq, equivalent to the entire US military machine. MineTech recorded 1029 community villages identifying 527 adjacent dangerous areas.
While mine clearance issues are of less consequence, most minefields being located around a few ex Iraqi military installations and a few strategic installations, such as oil and gas fields or refineries, the significant exception is the entire length of the Eastern border with Iran. This has been heavily mined, denying access to thousands of hectares of land and the cause of many civilian injuries.
The impact of EO in the population is devastating. At Al Musharrah, children set off a munitions stockpile stored in their school. The resulting explosion caused a wing of the complex to collapse, scattering ordnance throughout the school grounds.
MineTech teams have been working to overcome a variety of challenges. Extremes of heat have tested the dog teams. On other days, clearance teams have faced strong winds and thick dust clouds. In a typical clearance project, explosive ordnance remains were buried under three sections of collapsed roofing. The tar roof covering melted into the rubble, congealing into a semi solid mass. Despite this, in one week the teams recovered 1609 items, some 7905kg.
The biggest challenge facing all teams and inevitably all future reconstruction and aid teams is the issue of security. As with all its logistical requirements, MineTech has successfully managed its own security, independently recruiting and training its own armed protection and security services, enabling our teams to work securely and safely across Southern Iraq.
As of the end of February 2004 the teams had destroyed approximately 1,162 tonnes of ammunition, 492,033 items of Explosive Ordnance and 33,024 land mines, clearing a total of 4,422,574 m² of land.
MineTech International would like to thank all the UN AMACT staff for their co-operation and assistance throughout the contract, despite the sometimes difficult security climate that prevailed. – less–ZoomInfo