Denmarks left over WWII German Minefields

Joris Nieuwint

Denmark is affected by antipersonnel mines left from World War II. In 1944, the entire Skallingen Peninsula in Jutland on the Danish west coast was mined with antipersonnel and antitank mines.

One minefield remains on the peninsula. In 1945–1947, large parts of the minefield were cleared, but due to significant difficulties with the clearance and quality control of mainly dune and salt marsh areas, a part of the mined area was fenced and left uncleared.The affected area of the Skallingen Peninsula, as of entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty for Denmark on 1 March 1999, comprised a total of 1.86km2, initially identified from German mine records as well as markings established by mine clearance teams in 1947. For operational purposes the suspected mined area was divided into three areas: 1, 2, and 3. The first two areas were cleared by contractors in 2006–2008, leaving Area 3 to be demined.As a result of these demining operations, the suspected hazardous area of Area 3 was 1.2km2 as of November 2008. Subsequent “terrain analysis” resulted in the size of the suspected area rising slightly to 1.246km2 as of May 2009. In November 2009, Denmark announced that all wooden and fragmentation mines in areas frequently flooded in Area 3 had been rendered inoperable as a result of chemical reactions in the detonators caused by salty water.

In September 2010, Denmark reported that the remaining mined area was 1.212km2, divided into five different terrain types: 92,000m2 of dune or dyke; 66,000m2 of marshland covered with dunes; 683,000m2 of frequently flooded low marshland; 291,000m2 of high marshland; and 80,000m2 of beach. Following the initiation of clearance operations in July 2010 in Area 3, Denmark reported that as of June 2011, 310,000m2 remained to be released.No incidents from mines on Skallingen have been reported since 1946. No casualties were reported in the clearance operations in 2006–2008. The entire area—then almost 3km2—was surrounded by a new fence in 2005. The socio-economic impact of the remaining minefield on Skallingen is said to be insignificant. Denmark has stated that, “Although tourists cannot walk to the south end of Skallingen, small boats from Esbjerg cannot land there and hunters cannot hunt in the area concerned, none of this has any economic implication on the local community.” According to Denmark, the environmental impact of the minefield is mainly positive due to restricted human access, although mine clearance will have some temporary negative impact on the environment, especially for the rare birds that have colonized the peninsula. The salt meadows are said to still show signs and scars of the mine clearance carried out in the 1940s.

Cluster munition remnants and other explosive remnants of war
There are no cluster munitions remnants on the Skallingen peninsula and there are believed to be few items of unexploded ordnance remaining.

Mine Action Program
The Ministry of Transport is responsible for clearance activities on Skallingen. The project is organized under the Danish Coastal Authority, which has the power to task and coordinate civil contractors and manage projects.

Land Release
No land release took place in 2009 and no antipersonnel mines were reported to have been destroyed. So-called terrain analysis resulted in the size of the suspected area rising slightly from 1.2km2 as of November 2008 to 1.246km2 as of May 2009.[15] In its Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 report for the period 1 April 2010 through 31 March 2011, Denmark reported no destruction of any antipersonnel mines, although the contractor that won the tender for completing mine clearance at Skallingen—Damasec J.Jensen Group, a Danish consortium consisting of the two companies Damasec and J. Jensen—initiated operations in July 2010.

Compliance with Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty
Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty and in accordance with its 2008 extension request, which was granted by the Ninth Meeting of States Parties in November 2008, Denmark is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 January 2011. At the Second Review Conference, Denmark said it remained “fully committed” to complying with all its obligations under Article 5.

In March 2008, Denmark presented a first request for an extension to its Article 5 deadline, but did not specify the period it was seeking, a treaty requirement. Denmark subsequently presented a revised request seeking an initial extension of 22 months until 1 January 2011.[20] This period was intended to be used primarily to determine the time needed to complete clearance operations. In October 2008, Denmark declared its plan to submit an additional extension request in mid-2010 for consideration at the Tenth Meeting of States Parties.

In May 2009, Denmark announced that the next steps in the demining of Area 3 were to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, to specify clearance standards and methods, and to develop a clearance plan. As the area “is designated as a specially protected nature and wildlife area under both the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the European Union’s Birds and Habitats Directives,” Denmark stated that, “…a public consultation process of relevant interested parties has to be carried out.” Previously, Denmark had claimed that it might be impossible to demine the salt meadows without causing serious deterioration, which “is probably not compatible with the rules of the Habitats Directive and RAMSAR Convention.”

In November 2009, Denmark announced that DKK114 million (approximately US$21.3 million) had been jointly allocated for clearance on Skallingen and underwater demining in 2010–2011. At the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, Denmark stated that it had recently issued a commercial tender note, with demining of the remaining area expected to commence in July 2010. The project manager within the Danish Coastal Authority expected that clearance operations would take up to two years, although this was subject to addressing the relevant environmental considerations and finding a contractor who could conduct the necessary work within the available budget.

On 18 June 2010, Denmark submitted a second extension request, seeking an additional 18 months through July 2012 to enable it to complete mine clearance operations. On 22 June 2010, in its presentation of the request to the Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Denmark stated that a clearance contractor had been identified in a competitive tender process in May 2010 and that mine clearance would commence by 1 July. It further stated that the contractor had been “given until the end of 2011 to complete the clearance. We have then added a six months buffer-period to allow weather-caused delays as well as to complete quality control of the area. Consequentially, Denmark will be able to release the area at latest by 1 of July 2012.”

In December 2010, the Tenth Meeting of States Parties granted Denmark’s request for a second extension to its Article 5 deadline, until 1 July 2012. In granting the request, the Meeting noted that Denmark had “complied with the commitments it had made, as recorded in the decisions of the Ninth Meeting of States Parties, to obtain clarity regarding the remaining challenge, produce a detailed plan and submit a second extension request.” It noted that this affirmed “the importance of a State Party, should it find itself in a situation similar to that of Denmark in 2008, requesting only the period of time necessary to assess relevant facts and develop a meaningful forward looking plan based on these facts.”

In June 2011, Denmark reiterated that it was fully committed to the implementation of Article 5. It stated that there were 310,000m2 still to clear and again affirmed that the remaining area would be cleared by July 2012. It noted, however, that clearing the dunes has been “challenging.” The contractor engaged for clearance had been expected to complete clearance by May 2011, but this was now not expected to be before the end of the year. If possible, the area would be released earlier than July 2012.