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The challenge

Enduring dangers of conflict

The impacts of war often linger longer than the time of conflict and combat.

One enduring legacy from war are landmines and other explosive hazards like improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

These explosive hazards inhibit freedom of movement, limit access to food, water, schools, hospitals, and shelter, and jeopardise the safety of communities and return of displaced civilian populations.

Each year, around 6,500 people are killed or maimed by anti-personnel mines (Landmine Monitor, 2022). Most of these are civilian casualties. Over half are children.

De-mining is a global initiative supported by the United Nations. More than 150 countries have joined the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty which aims to irradicate the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel mines.

The detection and destruction of landmines is critical for communities to safely recover and thrive after conflict. There are estimated to be over 100 million active landmines worldwide. Current de-mining operations clear around 117 thousand mines per year.

Traditional detection methods rely on metal detection which is slow and laborious. Metal detectors struggle to distinguish between metal signals from inert objects like discarded metallic rubbish and landmines. The only way to determine the source is to excavate the item. Only a small fraction of detections results in a positive landmine find.

Technologies that can speed up mine clearance operations have the potential to make a significant impact on global humanitarian de-mining efforts to safeguard war-ravaged communities and support their recovery.

MRead is developing portable detectors to use in humanitarian demining efforts. ©  AdobeStock, Kamber Ajdin

Our response

Advanced MR sensors for explosive detection

Our sensing and sorting teams have been developing advanced magnetic resonance (MR) technologies for deployment in mining and ore sorting for decades.

Applying these principles to landmine detection, we developed MR sensors which can detect the chemical signature of explosives frequently found in these devices.

MR uses radio frequency pulses and measures how the radio waves interact with atoms and molecules. The returning radio signal to the detector corresponds to a chemical signature in the sample being studied.

This approach is more accurate than current methods of landmine detection which tend to rely on detecting shapes or dense materials underground.

The MR detectors specifically detect the explosives in landmines. This leads to more direct and accurate detection of the explosive hazard, reducing time wasted from false alarms and speeding up the de-mining process.

The results

MRead detectors for humanitarian demining

In 2023, new Australian company MRead, a venture between CSIRO and RFC Ambrian, was launched to develop MR sensor technology to detect explosives and drugs on a molecular level.

MRead is developing MR detector units, which look like hand-held metal detectors, that can be deployed in the field for de-mining contaminated land.

MRead plans on deploying its first hand-held detectors to landmine-affected regions in Southeast Asia in 2024.

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