Mine clearance involves a range of activities aiming to eliminate land or naval mines in a given area. To achieve this, the mines are first detected and then removed. There are two types of mine clearance: military and humanitarian. Broadly speaking and by extension, it involves finding, neutralising, removing and storing or destroying ammunition, mines, traps, apparatus and explosives which may pose a safety or environmental threat. The work undertaken as part of the reconstruction in the wake of the First World War is better described by the term “demining”.
Since 2014, the French Civilian Defence Mine Clearance team has been led by Divisional Commissioner Christophe Bellini, head of the mine clearance section.
Based in twenty centres and one satellite centre, and four sites in metropolitan France and the French overseas territories, some 300 mine clearance officers from the Civilian Defence carry out three key missions under the motto of “Succeed or Perish” (Réussir ou Périr):
Neutralising and destroying unexploded ammunition (still regularly discovered by farmers and forest workers or those carrying out civil engineering works in the former “Zone Rouge” which was most badly affected by the First World War as well as areas affected by the Second World War;
Detecting, neutralising, removing or destroying ammunition and explosives;
Securing official visits and events with high attendance.
This work may be carried out in collaboration with the army (for example with the Inter-Forces Operational Centre for managing chemical weapons which were stored in Vimy in bad conditions and were moved to Suippes near the silos for the former Hades2 nuclear missiles. In this instance, the army was responsible for securing the Vimy store, transporting and storing the weapons in Suippes, and a “confirmation phase” aimed at re-securing the entire Suippes silo.