Peace Time: February 8, 2001


For the first time since the end of World War II, removing mines and other munitions has become a big business in Europe. The 1990s wars in the Balkans saw a lot more mines put into the ground, and the collapse of Yugoslavia opened the closed (and mined) borders for the first time in over half a century. So many companies have gotten into the demining business that competition has driven the cost of clearing mines from $50 per square meter to less than $3. As a result, a lot of deminers went looking for better paying jobs. Such was the shortage of demining staff that many women were hired. It had long been felt that demining was men's work. But women are actually better at it, as they are at many similar jobs (sewing, running precision equipment, making electronics.) Demining does not require great strength, but does need a lot of discipline and attention to detail. Done right, it is not very dangerous. The people at risk are the locals who live in a mined area. There are still several hundred injuries a year to mines in the Balkans, with nearly a hundred killed. The worst areas are on the borders of the former Yugoslavia, where mines and dud shells from World War I are found along with communist era mines used to keep the Yugoslavs in and foreigners out.


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