Making Strides in Finding A Better Way to Clear Landmines


Thoughts from our CEO at Find A Better Way – Rob White

As we approach the 11th annual International Mine Awareness Day, I can’t help but reflect on just how many people are still living with the potential dangers of landmines, let alone coping with the devastating and crippling injuries as a result of catastrophic injury caused by mines and other explosive remnants of war.

Today 10 people are killed or injured by landmines or unexploded weapons every single day. Landmines represent a persistent threat in around 40% of the world’s states from remote locations to heavily populated areas just two hours flight time from London. A quick look at the landmine monitor soon shows that there is still a significant challenge with dealing with the problem – see here.

Living in a world where landmines continue to kill or injure long after the fighting has finished results in people having to endure the rest of their lives coping with life debilitating injuries, not to mention the constant anxiety the threat of them poses to their everyday lives.

Find A Better Way was established in 2011 by England football legend Sir Bobby Charlton after he witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of these deadly devices. Convinced there must be a better, faster, more efficient and effective way to rid the world of landmines than traditional metal detection, Sir Bobby launched the charity.

The organisations clearing landmines all over the world are doing a fantastic job using current technologies, but the huge numbers of mines means it could take many lifetimes to remove all of them. Find A Better Way’s mission is driven by a belief that improvements in demining equipment and techniques, and the humanitarian imperative to support those injured by landmines, must be possible by embracing scientific advances delivered through the excellence of UK research and development. Ultimately, investment in this approach will deliver a marked reduction in the current cost-base of mine clearance and victim assistance.

Here at Find A Better Way we support vital, ground-breaking technological research at a number of leading universities. We are whole heartedly committed to delivering effective and innovative solutions that will have a far reaching and sustainable impact. Important in our approach is that we work with the end user, academia and commercial partners to develop pragmatic applications of leading technology. This unique approach is why I felt compelled to join the charity, initially as a trustee in 2011 and now as Chief Executive Officer.

New metal detection and innovation have shown that improving the pace of clearance, while maintaining safety and quality, can be achieved, but there is much more that should be done. If incrementally better detection was available to all clearance operators around the world then the impact on the problem would be immense. This is FABW’s humanitarian objective; we have set ourselves this aim.

Find A Better Way currently has nine research projects in place at the moment, with the SEMIS project at the University of Manchester recording an interesting breakthrough. Led by Professor Anthony Peyton the university has developed a method of combining ground penetrating radar (GRP) with the latest in metal characterisation techniques. This device has the potential to transform landmine detection as it has the potential to discriminate between mine and metallic clutter in real time. We will be looking to develop field trials with The University of Manchester over the next few months.

When FABW can make detection so effective that there is no reason to lay mines because they will be located immediately then we will have won the day. Finding the many millions of landmines already in the ground from 100 years of warfare and conflict must be addressed.

In addition to our work in landmine detection, we recently unveiled our commitment to the RESOLVE project led by Imperial College London into the regeneration of limbs for survivors of landmine and other explosive trauma accidents.  This programme has received a huge boost recently with the Chancellor committing £10m over five years to spearhead key areas of the RESOLVE programme, and support other activities in the charity.

We are looking forward to seeing our research projects develop further over the next 12 months and the continued efforts by ourselves, our donors and other landmine charities and NGOs to raise awareness of the ongoing threat and danger caused by landmines to the safety, health and lives of civilians.

Find out more about how you can support International Mine Awareness Day.