Geographical research into soil magnetism has aided unexploded mine detection by the Ministry of Defence and international humanitarian organisations.
Approximately every 30 minutes a landmine explodes somewhere in the world, with an estimated 7,000 people killed or severely injured each year. Landmines hold entire communities hostage: they render agricultural land useless, prevent food and medical aid from reaching people in need, hinder the return of displaced communities, and hamper already difficult relief operations and reconstruction efforts in many affected countries. Although their use is now banned, the United Nations estimates that around 80 countries worldwide are still affected by up to 50 million unexploded mines.
Electromagnetic induction is the dominant detection method for identifying and clearing landmines by the Ministry of Defence and international humanitarian organisations. However, due to the soil’s own magnetic properties, highly magnetic soils may produce a signal similar to that of metal objects which makes it impossible to distinguish between landmines and the soil itself.
Professor John Dearing (University of Southampton) developed a method to distinguish these signals, which began by mapping the magnetic properties of soils across England and Wales. Reasons for variations in magnetism, such as local geological variables and weather, are now better understood. From this a mathematical model has been developed to predict likely soil magnetism without further sampling needed.
New maps of soil magnetism for England and Wales will allow the Ministry of Defence to develop and test better designs for mine detectors and will be especially useful for developing detectors for use in highly magnetic soils. More effective detection is expected to reduce the high rate of maiming and death amongst mine clearance staff, which currently stands at one person for every 2,000 to 3,000 mines cleared.
This case study was originally published by the Society in 2011 and was updated in 2019.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is cited.
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2019) Improving the effectiveness and safety of mine detection. Case study. [online] Available at: http://www.rgs.org/impact/landminedetection/ Last accessed on: <date>
Featured image: @Franton68/Wikimedia
A better understanding of urban deprivation has helped central government and local authorities target spending to areas in most need.
Improved techniques for gathering and structuring data about local areas has enhanced the usefulness of the census and enabled better use of population data.
Improving understanding of UK internal migration informs policy responses to local demographic change.
This 2016 policy briefing offers recommendations for flood management policy in the UK across a variety of domains.
By placing a booking, you are permitting us to store and use your (and any other attendees) details in order to fulfil the booking.
We will not use your details for marketing purposes without your explicit consent.
You must be a member holding a valid Society membership to view the content you are trying to access. Please login to continue.
Join us today, Society membership is open to anyone with a passion for geography
Cookies on the RGS website