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Mechanised UXO Clearance Underway in Xieng Khuang

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Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS) has commenced the Mechanical Cluster Submunition Clearance project in Xieng Khuang province which aims to accelerate the disposal of cluster submunitions in the country.

The project also aims to secure safe living environments and rural development in target communities using demining equipment developed by Japanese construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu.

UXO Clearance is mostly conducted manually and mechanical clearance has been expected for a long time, but no machine has ever succeeded up to now.

Komatsu has developed a new excavator-type machine capable of crushing the metal covered hard cluster submunitions with its special bucket. The versatile machine is also used for brush clearance and land levelling.

JMAS receives financial assistance from the Japanese government and material support such as free use of the machine from Komatsu. As a result, JMAS and UXO Lao are cooperatively implementing the project.

During the project period, standard operating procedures will be developed and machine operators and maintenance personnel will be fully trained to establish the foundation for ongoing mechanical clearance.

JMAS introduced an outline of the machine and project at a workshop held last  week supported by National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector (NRA) and the Japanese government.

The workshop shared information among local operators to support understanding and cooperation about the new project and procedures to accelerate UXO clearance.

Komatsu, a leading Japanese construction machinery company had developed the world’s first UXO clearance machine and pilot testing was successfully conducted in Xieng Khuang province, Ambassador of Japan Takeshi Hikihara said at the workshop.

NRA Director General Mr. Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun said the organisation conducted two pilot tests in cooperation with Komatsu with the first in 2012, and in 2015 after further development of the machine. Last week’s workshop followed the two successful mechanical submunitions clearance pilot tests.

Due to aerial bombing during the Second Indo- China War, 80 million cluster submunitions were estimated to be unexploded and now, 50 casualties on average are reported every year.

NGo JMAS started its demining and UXO disposal operations in 2002. In Lao, UXO disposal operations began in 2006 and since then it has also implemented technical transfers about UXO disposal operations and rebuilt the Vientiane training centre.

In addition to that, they undertake mine clearance using anti-personnel demining equipment in Cambodia and Angola, and have also implemented underwater UXO disposal in Palau.

Source: Vientiane Times