The enviable reputation built up by Denel Group company Mechem continues to grow with a report from Turkey showing it removed more than four thousand mines in a scant two month period this year.
The Turkish demining operation started two years ago as a first for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Turkish Mine Action Centre (TURMAC) transitioning from military to humanitarian demining.
Mechem acting general manager Warren Faro said deployment to Turkey was a learning curve for the Mechem personnel involved, notwithstanding the experience and knowledge gained working on post-conflict demining operations in, among others, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.
Since moving into Turkey two years ago the Mechem demining record reads 16 658 land mines destroyed over five months in 2017 and 15 cleared minefields handed over notwithstanding the loss of two months operations due to extreme weather. The 2018 season “exceeded all expectations” with 25 minefields cleared with more than 12 600 mines removed and destroyed. To date this year two months of clearing operations have seen 4 802 mines located and destroyed.
All told Mechem personnel have to date taken more than 45 000 mines out since 2016, making vast tracts of land available for other purposes including growing crops and grazing for livestock.
Mechem’s work in Turkey is part of the country’s commitment to rid itself of landmines undertaken in terms of a European Union sponsored initiative. This will see Turkey landmine-free by 2022, fulfilling obligations to the Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use and stockpiling of mines.
Landmines were used along the Turkish borders to prevent illegal migration and cross-border crime. The indiscriminate nature of landmines poses significant safety concerns to military personnel, civilians and demining staff – with continued reports of injuries and deaths, Mechem noted.