History of Minelaying

For the last 50 years left wing Non States Armed Groups (NSAGs) have been in conflict with the Government.

This has resulted in the use of locally manufactured mines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), collectively described as “mines” to prevent movement and protect bases.

The Colombian military laid defensive mines around 35 of their bases which have now been cleared by military engineers. NSAGs and paramilitary organisations used mines in all aspects of their operations. Many of these mines and minefields still exist.

The Problem

Colombia is currently one of the most mine-affected countries in the world, with more than 10,000 recorded deaths and injuries from landmines since 1990.

In many cases, landmine contamination prevents the return of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) to their land. According to government statistics, there are more than 3.6 million registered IDPs in Colombia, a figure second only to Sudan. The new Victims Law aims to compensate victims of the Colombian conflict and lays out plans to return 3,000,000ha of land to those who have been displaced.

Although the conflict is ongoing, in August 2012 the Colombian government and FARC signed an agreement outlining negotiations for peace. In October 2012, the Colombian government and FARC began their first direct negotiations for a decade in Norway. If peace is successfully negotiated, the requirement for civilian humanitarian demining in Colombia will increase greatly. HALO is well placed to respond to the landmine problem.

Whilst over 10,000 potentially Suspect Hazardous Areas (SHAs) exist in Colombia’s IMSMA records, it is unlikely all of these still contain active mines.

However it is widely accepted that Colombia has a major mines problem:

“Colombia continues to have the world's highest increase in accidents with anti-personnel mines and UXO (unexploded ordnance), which are affecting more and more civilians” - ECHO Colombia 2009

Mines laid by NSAGs are found on routes used by government forces and around illicit crop plantations and schools and houses used as bases in rural areas. In regions that the Colombian military now control these mines are still present and are preventing the civilian population returning and the necessary development taking place.

The Solution

The Colombian Government recognises that many more deminers need to be deployed in Colombia to address the extent of the mines problem.

On September 18, 2013 HALO deployed its first demining teams with funding from the Governments of the United States and Germany. It is planned to expand these teams to over 500 deminers in order to help reduce Colombia's landmine casualties in the future, allow displaced communities to return home in safety and support development programs.

Meanwhile HALO's survey teams currently funded by the US, Germany and EC (through UNMAS) will work in preparation for further mineclearance and in support of the Government of Colombia's Land Restitution program.

Requirement for Continued Clearance

Mineclearance to date has been successfully conducted by the military’s mobile EOD teams and their humanitarian mineclearance platoons. There are also reports of NSAGs occasionally clearing mines they have laid at the request of local communities.

The Government of Colombia recognises the requirement for a massive expansion of military clearance assets to 25 platoons and the introduction of 49 civilian platoons to address the mines problem. The HALO Trust has now passed a significant milestone in deploying civilian clearance teams in support of Colombia's Mine Ban Treaty obligations and looks forward to further expanding the support offered by our clearance and survey teams. 

Program management - Senior staff

Nick Smart

HALO Program Manager

Nick has worked for HALO since 2008. After initial training in Sri Lanka, Somaliland and Mozambique, he was Programme Operations Manager in Georgia and Deputy Programme Manager in Angola.  He has been working in Nagorno Karabakh as Programme Manager for the last two years and recently moved to manage the programme in Colombia.  Nick has a degree in History, Politics and American studies.

Yeison Villamil

HALO Colombia EOD Officer

Yeison served for over 8 years in the National Police as a Bomb Tech gaining experience in IED’s and Post Blast Investigation.  He also worked as a Fire & Safety Inspector for private companies prior to joining HALO in 2011 where he has trained and worked in HALO Programs in Afghanistan and Ivory Coast.

Nathalie Ochoa

HALO Colombia Operations Officer

Nathalie joined HALO in 2010, she has been working concentrating in minefield survey. Following training in HALO Cambodia in 2011 she is now employed as an Operation Officer in Colombia. Nathalie is professional in Political Science, between 2009 and 2010 she participated as a Regional Coordinator in the implementation of Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) in Colombia.

Alberto Corredor

HALO Colombia GIS and Survey Officer

Alberto is a geographer with expertise in GIS and systematization of information. He has worked mainly in community work. Alberto joined HALO in 2011 to carry out survey activities in the different areas of Colombia where HALO has a presence. He is currently employed as a GIS and IMSMA Officer and is responsible for mapping.

Alex Greenall

HALO Colombia Operations Officer

Alex joined HALO in March 2012 as the HALO Expatriate Support Officer in Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan he completed his mineclearance formal EOD training and was subsequently posted to the HALO Colombia program as an Operations Officer. He is currently managing clearance operations in South East Antioquia.