Latest Landmine Database: One of the World’s Best
Brenda Stewart, Brave Defence, July 2003
“No one accurately knows
how many landmines have been manufactured. Our landmine
database and handheld applications will help ease this
No one would disagree that working in mine fields is a
dangerous business—not to be taken lightly.
Clearly, an electronic database containing landmine
information is an essential tool—and according to recent
feedback the one the Canadian Forces released in January 2003
is stacking up as one of the best in the world.
Extremely concise and user friendly, it has been very well
received at home and in other countries, says Master Warrant
Officer Tom Stewart from the National Defence Mine/countermine
Information Centre (NDMIC) at headquarters
Kudos from humanitarian and defence organizations in Canada
and countries such as Denmark, England, Romania, Australia and
the U.S. have ranged from “It’s great.” to “It’s
With vast numbers of mines in use, the database has proven
valuable in arenas such as landmine training, clearance
operations and deployment of military forces—as well as an
educational resource, says MWO Stewart.
“Some countries use our database for comparison, however,
others are comfortable enough with it to be using it in the
Such easily accessible information was not always available.
For years, soldiers and others required to work in mine fields
used paper copies of information. The problems were obvious,
in that it came in various forms, classifications and
different amounts of detail.
Then in 1996, Sergeant Rod MacDougall assisted by the Canadian
Forces School of Military Engineering (CFSME)
devised a solution by developing an electronic version in the
form of a landmine database.
MWO Stewart says, “The Canadian Forces
set a precedent in a way. Ours was the first of its type.”
In 1998, an update transferred data to the latest version of
the Access software in a painstaking manual process.
Three years later, in August 2001 work on the latest version
began. Midway through, the format became unworkable—far too
large to distribute easily to users.
Steve Hamilton and his team of information technology experts
at ADM Infrastructure and Environment
responded to the centre’s request for assistance. They
changed the information to the SQL database
to accommodate hundreds of images, and added the envisioned
user friendliness and information protection.
The current version presents facts in an easy-to-use format
that looks like a Web page—and it’s easy to update and
upgrade. The unclassified listing comes on a compact disk and
currently profiles 313 landmines, complete with images.
Searches will find a mine, based on its name, country in use
or of origin, shape, material, colour and type.
The new database consolidates information—decreasing the
number of records required. Landmines often have different
names depending on the country of use—a fact that
contributes to the impression that more mines exist.
“To avoid confusion, we only included mines with images.
Many other databases in the world lack images—a potentially
dangerous precedent and omission for individuals needing to
operate in mined environments.”
“We provide good clear images and detailed accurate
information—another reason ours is considered one of the
For maximum performance, database instructions advise users to
install the application to their computers. Then, easy access
to updates and more information is available internally
through the department’s Intranet site. Work is underway to
provide similar information via the Web.
Another exciting idea is also in the works. The centre is
investigating the feasibility of a “country-specific”
version of the database designed for a palm-sized PDA
(personal assistance device). The tool will also be a
hand-held landmine “mapper.”
Basically, the device would hold a digital map and critical
information from the database that would enable people to move
around safely. Ultimately, it will also transfer back in
minutes locations and new information on landmines from other
“While the idea is still only in the concept stage, we are
expecting to have a usable product before June 2003,” says MWO
“The landmine problem world wide is horrific. In some
locales, civilians and guerilla troops may have laid
landmines—leaving absolutely no records.”
“No one accurately knows how many have been manufactured or
laid. Our landmine database and handheld applications will
help ease this problem.”