Professor Christina Cogdell
Design 040A - A03
11 December 2014
Word Count: 1865
Landmines - The Inadmissible Energy
There are an estimated 110 million active landmines globally today. Landmines maim or kill over 25 thousand humans per year and cause even greater damage to the local environment and wildlife they are used in (UN). They are an evil instrument of destruction, producing casualties long after warfare has ceased; countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan still struggle with the burden of past conflicts where active landmines litter the land as diabolic mementoes of forgotten wars. Beyond human casualties, landmines also have significant effects on global environment issues such as soil erosion, declining biodiversity, food shortage, and most importantly the energy they consume and waste in their lifecycle.
Landmines in their recognizable modern form were first invented and used by Americans when fighting off the Native Americans in the mid 1800’s, Since then, many versions of the landmine have been produced by different countries and have been repurposed to not only target humans but also military vehicles (Croll). Virtually all landmines fall under one of two categories, they are either anti-tank (AT) or anti-personnel (AP) mines. While the dynamics of a landmine blasts are practically the same, regardless of the intended target, antipersonnel landmines are in fact not designed to kill their victims but to maim them instead, and in this way costing the enemy the maximum amount of resources to care for the affected victims. In this way landmines not only harm the maimed victims and cost resources to help affected individuals, but they also have an invisible but entirely tangible energy cost on the country they are used within since rebuilding an affected ecology and society can take decades.
Although landmine production within the United States was prohibited in the late 1990’s, many landmine components are still produced by domestic U.S. companies then sold, shipped, and assembled as completed landmines overseas (Maresca). There are three physical components of a landmine which can be purchased and assembled together to form the final product (HRW). Although there are a vast number of variations on the landmine based on intended use and country of origin, the elementary materials and energy which are used in the production remains essentially the same across the board. The three components are as follows: a triggering mechanism, an explosive material, and a housing unit (Borland). The explosive material and the plastic housing unit are both immensely energy intensive to manufacture but since triggering mechanisms are relatively simple and the smallest component of a landmine it therefore has a comparatively insignificant production energy intake.
The explosion of a landmine is a two-step process, it includes an initial primer detonation (commonly pentolite or cyclotol is used) which triggers the secondary and main explosion. The energy released by the primer detonation and its amount within the landmine is infinitely minute when compared to the primary explosive and therefore negligible. But the main secondary detonation which is ordinarily composed of a highly-explosive main charge called Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO), which accounts for 80% explosives used in North America. Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil in fact carries a 25% greater explosive strength over traditional TNT which had been previously used in landmines (Sastri). Ammonium nitrate itself is widely used as a fertilizer in the agricultural industry but it is also the key piece of ANFO. It can only be found in its pure and natural form in very few locations globally one of them being the extremely dry area of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Even though this location has been used to mine ammonium nitrate in the past, currently nearly all ammonium nitrate is produced synthetically. This production process entails the acid-base reaction of ammonia with nitric acid, which is a reaction that is technologically challenging since it is highly exothermic and therefore energy exhaustive (Princeton). Furthermore the production of ammonia itself is also highly energy consumptive, because it takes natural gas or LPG (such as propane and butane) in its gaseous form and combines it with nitrogen. Furthermore, nitric acid has its own production process which is as equally as energy demanding, but also requires a catalyst, such as platinum (EPA). The catalyst platinum also has to be mined and shipped, and since it is an extremely scarce material, unfathomable amounts of energy must be spent not only mining this element but also discovering mining locations and refining the ore; in fact, platinum can take up to six months to be refined (Projects IQ). Unmistakably the production of a single material is never as simple and direct as one may assume and there is almost always an extensive list of necessary and separate productions which allow the manufacturing of the initial material.
The second more energy intensive material used in the production of a landmine is the plastic housing unit. The housing unit holds all the pieces of the mine together, essentially providing a convenient package for the deadly device. Although traditionally metal housing units were used, specifically in the two world wars, virtually all modern mines have substituted metal housings for much lighter and malleable plastic ones. Although within the United States plastic is not derived directly from crude oil, it is still a product of petroleum products such as natural gas or liquid petroleum gas (EIA). The plastic in housing units also requires the use of LPG in its production, similar to the production of ammonia for the explosive materials. LPGs are by-products of petroleum refining and natural gas processing. These fuels are used as feedstocks to make the plastic and as fuels in the manufacturing process (Twigg). In fact nearly 3% of the United States’ petroleum usage goes directly into fueling plastic manufacture and billions of kilowatts of electricity power are used up in plastic production. Furthermore, the electricity generation is largely coal based and is not only extensively inefficient but a major factor in global CO2 emissions (EIA). Poignantly, not only is the housing unit made from mass-produced, non-biodegradable material, but the globe is also being immensely polluted within just the production process itself.
The most obvious and tangible form of energy consumption from lifecycle of a landmine may come from the production of the main explosive material, ANFO, and the plastic housing unit of the mine. However, even more energy intensive, unseen costs include the global shipping of the materials used within manufacturing and the shipping of the final product itself. Tracking the complete shipping route history for a single landmine is a nearly impossible task since cheap petroleum fueled global shipping has become an international manufacturing norm. Although an extremely rough estimate can be traced simply following the painted path of the main global manufacturers for each substance. As previously stated ammonium nitrate is produced widely around the world because of its usage as a fertilizer but only global powers such as the United States and Russia produce this material in purity levels necessary for weapons grade quality. Furthermore, because the triggering mechanisms of landmines require a high level of precision they are also only produced within “developed” countries. Lastly the plastic housing units of landmines can come from a wide range of countries but is most likely rooted from “developing” countries such as China or India because of their low prices.
Since landmines may remain active for up to 50 years, their lifecycle and destructive power often outlasts the war they were designed for. Therefore the extremely demanding challenge of safely collecting and disposing of unexploded landmines throughout the globe, presents one of the most energy and resource intensive problems in the world. One hundred million uncleared landmines lie in the fields and alongside the roads and footpaths of one-third of the countries in the developing world. Claiming over 500 victims a week, they are weapons of mass destruction in slow motion. At present, deactivating landmines or demining is its own flourishing industry and ironically many of the domestic companies who produced landmines prior to their banning in the Clinton era, currently develop and produce mine-detection equipment (Shenon). Only once this crucial ending is added to the overall account of a landmine’s life cycle does one truly understand the devastating inefficiency of this product. Not only are natural resources and energy consumed in its production and distribution, and whole communities around the globe faced with the daily fear of losing limbs, but at the end of it all this demonic product also consumes valuable energy simply to be disposed of.
Plastic is an incredibly strong and long lasting material, in fact it is so long lasting that for all intents and purposes it does not biodegrade. Therefore the energy consumed to manufacture plastic materials will essentially remain trapped within the product indefinitely, unless of course the plastic is recycled in some way. Demining organizations often melt down plastic housing units of deactivated mines to be used in a variety of recycled manufacturing however, this does not account for the many active mines littering the global with immense quantities of embodied energy which we have in reality lost, until of course the mine is either defused or detonated. If the bomb is detonated, the housing units liquefy and explode outward scattering across a large area and since these plastic pieces refuse to biodegrade they will become an artificial contamination of a minefield’s original ecosystem. In addition, since landmines are placed just below the surface of the land, they have a very direct impact on the soil, “when a landmine explodes it destroys surrounding vegetation and shatters and displaces the soil, making it vulnerable to water and wind erosion” (IFA). Landmine explosions have the most radical impact on lands used for agriculture because they can reduce harvest yields by up to 50% (IFA).
Even the demining of areas affected by landmines has damaging effects on the soil productivity. Plowing of the land is required for demining and this damages the organic diversity and vegetation of the land. Landmines can also contaminate the land and water of an area with their toxic ingredients as their casings corrode or leak. These toxic substances affect both the wildlife and the humans by acting as carcinogens, and can easily have negative and long-lasting effects on the food chain of an ecosystem. Furthermore, wild animals are often directly affected by landmine explosions. The concentrations of farm land is also shifted by landmines since many people become displaced and have to rely on a much smaller farming area for the same amount of output. This causes soil exhaustion from overuse, and thus the land becomes much more susceptible to erosion and productivity is heavily minimized. Through local over-cultivation the process of desertification is significantly accelerating which in turn has a butterfly effect on a global scale, rapidly destroying vast bionetworks.
The embodied energy within a single landmine is astounding once all the factors which contribute to its production, distribution, and final destruction are considered. Landmines effect the globe in a negative way since they help facilitate the destruction of human life, the decline of biodiversity, and the overconsumption of energy on a global scale. Through a closer inspection it’s plain to see that landmines touch not only the local area they are used within but have far reaching effects worldwide.
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Croll, Mike. The History of Landmines. Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1998. Print.
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IFA. "The Impact Of War and Weapons On Humans And The Environment." Conservation, Biodiversity Sustainability Environment Issues, Automated Lobbying Database at. Information for Action, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.
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Waste from Landmine Production
TA: Diana Pardo Sec: Thursday 5-6pm
December 3, 2014
Landmines are some of the worst weapons of war due to their lasting impact on individuals, and the societies they inhabit. Landmines are destructive, and produce large amounts of waste in multiple ways. These wastes amount to casualties, injuries to many, contamination from cluster munition remnants, and the difficulty it takes to remove the mine as a whole due to the large number of mines planted throughout the world. All of these listed ways that landmines produce waste is only from the last part of the landmines life cycle, not including production, transportation, and the materials that are used in the landmine production process. Landmines are successful in accomplishing what they were designed to do, harm people, be difficult to locate, and are sustainable in that they can still function 40-50 years after their initial placement.
Although landmines are powerful in accomplishing their intended function as weapons of war, these devices should no longer be produced or used due to the major impacts and lasting effects they have on many humans.
The physical components that go into the production of landmines are relatively low cost and take about the same amount of energy to produce as they release upon impact and explosion. Landmines are composed of approximately 10.5 pounds of VX-nerve gas, composition B4 explosive, fuse and activator wells, a thin-walled steel body, pressure plate assembly, a 16-gallon drum, a primary fuze well and two secondary fuze wells (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity, 2012). The VX-nerve agent is “ primarily in the production of landmines (Clifford Levy, 2009). In fact, the chemical is so toxic, that stockpile eliminations have occurred worldwide and are still underway in order to do away with nerve agents (Levy, 2009). Another essential part of landmine production is the burster. As Gersbeck explains, “the landmine contains a 14 ounce burster that disperses the VX agent (Tom Gersbeck, 2010, p. 254-255). Due to restrictions and limitations on available information on the process of landmine production, it is difficult to determine the exact amount of energy that goes into landmine production with the VX agent, burster, and other restricted materials.
Many landmines also use Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil as the main explosive in landmines. The production and transportation for Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil slightly varies per country being delivered to. Delivery to Denmark has a carbon footprint of about 3.1 t CO2-eqv per t N, delivery to Finland has a carbon footprint of 3.2 t CO2-eqv per t N, delivery to Norway 3.0 t CO2-eqv per t N, and delivery to Sweden 3.1 t CO2-eqv per t N (Yara HESQ/ Jan-Petter Fossum, 2014). The production of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil varies in carbon emission based on the procedure. If you use EU BAT, with natural gas as energy source, 3.6 t CO2-eqv per t N is emitted. If EU average NH3-plants and without de-N2O catalyst technology, with natural gas as energy source, then 7.8 t CO2-eqv per t N is emitted. If AN-based fertilizers delivered by plants with average Russian NH3 energy efficiency and without de-N2O catalyst technology, then the emission is 8.1 t CO2-eqv per t N. The difference in energy efficiency within the process determines how much energy is wasted on the process of production. The variances in energy waste from production and transportation varies due to process and location of where the products are being transported.
Although it is difficult to access additional information on the production, cost, and transportation of landmine components due to government restrictions, overall production for mines is relatively cheap to produce per unit. Mines cost between “US$ 3 and US$ 75 to produce” (Nicolas E. Walsh and Wendy S. Walsh, 2003, p. 5), a much smaller cost than the cost to remove them. Aside from analyzing the production and transportation process, the large amount of waste that results from the presence, use, and aftermath of landmines is a strong enough impact to show the inefficiencies of landmines.
Additional cons beyond the production, and use of landmines include the time and money spent on education on landmines for their removal. According to the United Nations (UN) article The UN Mine Action Gateway, “Fourteen UN department, agencies, programmes and funds play a role in mine-action programs in 30 countries and three territories…much of the actual work, such as demining and mine-risk education, is carried out by nongovernmental organizations.”(United Nations, 2013). The UN “programmes” that combat and educate against landmines are UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women),UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),World Food Programme (WFP),World Health Organisation (Injuries and Violence Prevention Department) (WHO), and the World Bank (WB) (United Nations, 2013) are organizations in support of or actively working against landmines,. highlights just how much time, cost, and energy goes into the removal of landmines.
This list only includes the initiatives started by the UN, not including local efforts towards landmine education by those directly effected. These organizations primarily work towards the relief and assistance to areas impacted by landmines. In order to make an area with landmines safe, the landmines must be removed, as there is no simple way to deactivate them. This process is known as demining, which is difficult to do, dangerous, time consuming, and costs about “US$ 300–1000 per mine” for removal. (Walsh, 2003, p. 5). Because landmines cost drastically more to remove than to produce, are difficult to locate, and result in the deaths of civilians and workers trying to remove the landmines, the waste output of resources put into removing them is the greatest portion of the lifecycle.
Landmines have extensive social repercussions that prevent many citizens from farming and traveling through certain areas that may potentially have landmines. Landmines are currently not legal to produce by many countries, and information is often restricted on their creation process because governments do not want civilians knowing how to make destructive weapons. Currently, the producers of landmines, or at least those who have the potential and rights to produce them include the United States, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Burma, China, North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore (Diana Pardo, 2014). For these reasons, locating information on the waste that comes from landmine production and materials is difficult to find, particularly due to the fact that countries do not want civilians to know how to make explosives.
The location and removal of landmines are also parts of the lifecycle that costs a large amount of energy, and are dangerous to those whose job it is to remove them. Landmines have a life of approximately 40-50 years (Walsh, 2003, p. 5). Due to this extensive history, many of the landmines that pose a threat to civilians now are remnants of wars that were fought decades ago. Landmines not only cost energy to remove, but they also take land, potentially farmable, from those who could have benefitted, another cost to those affected by landmines. Landmines are not sustainable because they are not beneficial to public health. However, landmines are well designed in their function of destruction and limiting the enemy’s movements. Most importantly, the landmine is ineffective in the fact that the majority of injuries from landmines are civilians and children.
As the Walsh’s observed, “an estimated 800 people die monthly from landmine-related injuries (2, 5), and 15,000–25,000 people a year are maimed or killed by landmines (Walsh, 2003, p.7). This impact requires countless resources and energy to provide aid to those wounded by landmines. Landmines create restrictions on civilizations, preventing movement to certain locations, prevention of economic growth, and restriction on land that could otherwise be used for agriculture. Because of this limitation, positive results are limited, and landmines further result in a waste of potential. This large amount of injuries results in a significant impact on many individuals’ capabilities, and physical energy potential.
Lastly, landmines cause contamination to areas as a negative impact. The Army Chemical Center ran tests to show that, “a coverage capability of 1100 square meters to a contamination level of 400 mg/sqmeter [as an impact of landmines], when there is no constraint such as a tank over the mine (Marian Reedy, 1996, p. 2). Morally, leftover landmines have been used as a tactic to gain control and power, “while it is believed that no military groups are still deploying mines, the devices are still being used in new and horrible ways: Civilians have used mines to protect property and settle disputes; poachers are reportedly using mines to hunt tigers, which are prized for use in medicines in neighboring Vietnam” (10 Countries With the Most Landmines, 2008). With this in mind, landmines have adapted to have multiple forms of waste and drawbacks that no longer are primarily used as weapons of war.
Landmines are no longer effective as a product, because they primarily harm civilians, produce waste in multiple ways, and place limitations on the lives of individuals no longer connected to the original placement of the landmine after World War II. Landmines are sustainable in that they are long lasting, but their uses are no longer focused on war and now more so focused on controlling civilians.
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