DUSTY, a seven-year-old Border Collie, strides confidently past
three filters impregnated with different explosives.
She shows special interest in a fourth sample, takes a closer
sniff, circles it three times, and then sits down and wags her
tail. The dog has been trained to detect TNT, which the last filter
had been permeated with.
"She is an old lady, but she is brilliant," says Vernon Joynt,
a South African arms designer who is now channeling his energy
toward the detection and lifting of antipersonnel land mines.
Mr. Joynt, managing director of the South African company
Mechem, uses dogs to help detect land mines. Mechem takes air
samples from areas suspected of containing mines, using protected
vehicles with suction pipes that run just off the ground. The dogs
then sniff the filters from the pipes to test for explosives.
The method, which is now deployed in the lifting of mines in
Mozambique, holds the promise of making mine clearance a safer,
quicker, and less expensive task. In fact, demining is becoming a
profitable alternative to manufacturing the explosives.
Mechem has just landed $3.5 million in contracts to remove some
of the estimated 2 million mines that block Mozambique's major
highways and slow the repatriation of about 3.5 million refugees
ahead of that country's first democratic elections scheduled for
The contract was awarded by the multinational corporation,
Lonrho, which has economic interests in Mozambique. Lonrho has in
turn been contracted with UNOMOZ, the UN operation overseeing
South Africa, which declared a ban on the exports of mines two
months ago, is now devoting its expertise to detecting and lifting
the deadly weapons that kill and maim thousands of civilians around
the world each year.
Beyond 1980 convention
That effort represents a small step forward in the global
campaign of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) for a worldwide ban on all land mines and inhumane
weapons - including blinding weapons such as lasers - in line with
the 1980 Land Mines Protocol of the UN United Nations Weapons
The 1980 protocol - which provides for restrictions on the use
of mines, invisible shrapnel, and incendiary devices such as napalm
- has failed to halt the escalation in civilian mine casualties.
Thus, the ICRC-led international campaign - launched at an
international conference in Montreux, Switzerland a year ago - is
running into trouble.
The major obstructions, civil-rights advocates say, are from
countries with vested interests in mine production and that are
reluctant to commit the massive funds necessary for mine clearance.
The ICRC describes the socioeconomic, medical, and environmental
impact of mines as a global catastrophe. Yet the humanitarian
problem continues with the collaboration of the world's major
"We are trying to convince governments to extend the moratorium
on mine exports to one on production," says Raphael Olaya, ICRC
delegate in South Africa on international humanitarian law. …