Falklands are finally free of mines 38 years after end of war for the islands between Britain and Argentina
- The Falkland Islands have been cleared of last mines 38 years after conflict
- Islander will be picked to detonate last 20 anti-tank devices in a ceremony
- Argentine troops left behind some 13,000 mines and bombs after defeat in 1982
The Falklands has finally been cleared of landmines – almost 40 years after the end of the conflict that left the island littered with the deadly weapons.
The south Atlantic islands’ government will officially reopen Gypsy Cove near the capital Stanley for the first time in 38 years to mark the end of the demining project on Saturday.
One lucky islander will be picked to detonate the last 20 anti-tank devices in a symbolic final bang on the beach at the end of a ceremony.
The Falklands has finally been cleared of landmines – almost 40 years after the end of the conflict that left the island littered with the deadly weapons
One lucky islander will be picked to detonate the last 20 anti-tank devices in a symbolic final bang on the beach at the end of a ceremony
More than 24,000 mines and unexploded ordnance left behind by defeated Argentine troops in 1982.
Some of these mines were cleared directly after the conflict by British military personnel, but high numbers of casualties incurred during clearance operations forced the Army to stop.
Minefield positions were recorded and fenced off for the next 25 years.
A team of over 100 deminers — mostly from Zimbabwe — have cleared thousands of the mines.
The demining programme has been run by Safelane Global, a private firm, since 2009, with an estimated 128 mine fields covering 23million square metres having been cleared
In the short war that followed the invasion, 649 Argentinians died, along with 255 British servicemen and three islanders. After 74 days, the Argentine forces surrendered
Britain and Argentina’s 10-week war
Fascist military leaders in Argentina invaded the British Falkland Islands on April 2, 1982.
At a time of economic crisis, Argentine leaders believed recapturing the Falklands would restore support for the ruling party.
The UK had ruled the islands for 150 years at the time of the invasion, which the junta justified by saying they had inherited the land from Spain in the 1800s, citing the Falklands’ proximity to South America as a further reason.
But Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher deployed a task force to fight on behalf of the traditionally British residents of the Falklands.
In the short war that followed, 649 Argentinians died, along with 255 British servicemen and three islanders.
Following a tough sea battle, British forces made landing to the north of Stanley, before fighting their way in to the capital. The Argentinians surrendered on 14 June
The demining programme has been run by Safelane Global, a private firm, since 2009, with an estimated 128 mine fields covering 23million square metres having been cleared.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: ‘Thanks to UK efforts, there are no more dangerous anti-personnel mines on the Falklands Islands.’
John Hare, 62, a Falklands veteran who led the demining project, said beaches near Stanley were the last to be cleared.
‘Detection equipment was useless as the mines were buried so deep.
‘We used armoured excavators with sifting buckets and a screening machine on the sand,’ he told The Sun.
Darren Cormack, Chief Executive of the Manchester-based landmine clearance charity, Mines Advisory Group (MAG), said 19 people a day are killed or injured by mines and unexplored ordnance.
‘Over half of civilian casualties are civilian,’ he said.
‘The clearance of landmines from the Falklands, three years ahead of schedule, is evidence of the UK addressing what is a global problem.
After the symbolic detonation, the final safety fence will be opened and everyone will be invited to walk down to the beach for the first time since 1982.
The Deputy Harbor master will also be inviting local mariners to form a flotilla offshore, at a safe distance from the demolition area.
In the 10-week war sparked by the Argentine invasion, 649 Argentinians died, along with 255 British servicemen and three islanders.