United States

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 09 October 2018


The United States of America (US) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Since its inauguration in January 2017, the administration of Donald Trump has not indicated if US landmine policy will be reviewed nor has it commented on the matter of US accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Previously, in 2014, President Barack Obama announced new US landmine policy measures banning production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines as well as halting their use by the US anywhere, except the Korean Peninsula.[1] While the Obama administration brought the US policy further in line with the Mine Ban Treaty, it did not take any measures toward US accession.[2]

Under the 2014 policy, the US has committed to not use antipersonnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula and not to assist, encourage, or induce other nations to use, stockpile, produce, or transfer antipersonnel mines outside of Korea.[3] It has also committed to no future production or acquisition of antipersonnel mines.[4] It is not clear if the Defense Department ever concluded its “high fidelity modeling and simulation effort” study into “alternatives” to antipersonnel mines announced as part of the policy measures in 2014.

The 2014 policy announcement followed more than two decades of efforts by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and NGOs organized under the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL).

The US was the first country to call for the “eventual elimination” of antipersonnel mines in September 1994 and it participated in the Ottawa Process that led to the creation of the treaty yet did not sign it in 1997. After the treaty was adopted in 1997, the Clinton administration set the US goal of joining it in 2006, but the Bush administration then reversed that objective in 2004.[5]

In 2009, the US participated as an observer in the Mine Ban Treaty’s Second Review Conference in Cartagena in 2009, and since then it has attended the Third Review Conference in Maputo in June 2014 and every Meeting of States Parties, most recently the Sixteenth Meeting of States Parties in Vienna in December 2017. The US also participates in the treaty’s intersessional meetings Geneva, most recently in June 2018.

On 4 December 2017, the US abstained from voting on United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 72/53 calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it has done for every Mine Ban Treaty resolution since 1998.

The US is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on landmines and Protocol V on explosive remnants of war. In 2018, it submitted its annual national report for Amended Protocol II as required under Article 13.


The last US use of antipersonnel mines was in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991 with the exception of the use of a single antipersonnel mine in Afghanistan in 2002.[6]

US forces in Afghanistan reportedly used Claymore directional fragmentation mines in 2009 and 2010, which are not prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty if used in command-detonated mode.[7]

The 2014 policy prohibits US use of antipersonnel landmines anywhere in the world, except the Korean Peninsula. The Department of Defense has long cited the need for the US to use antipersonnel mines there in the event of an invasion by North Korea. Moreover, in the event of active hostilities, the current arrangement for a joint combined command structure would put a US general in charge of South Korean military forces. If the US were party to the Mine Ban Treaty, this means the US would violate the Mine Ban Treaty’s prohibition on assisting any prohibited activities.[8]

Numerous retired US military officers have questioned the utility of antipersonnel landmines in South Korea and elsewhere, citing the overwhelming technological superiority of other weapons in the US-South Korean arsenal in comparison with North Korea’s as sufficient to compensate for not using mines. In addition, a former commander of US forces in South Korea, the late Lt. Gen. James Hollingsworth, said in 1997 that antipersonnel landmines’ “minimal” utility to US forces is “offset by the difficulty…[they] pose to our brand of mobile warfare…Not only civilians, but US armed forces, will benefit from a ban on landmines. US forces in Korea are no exception.”[9]

After two South Korean soldiers on patrol were maimed by antipersonnel landmines that South Korea accused North Korea of laying in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in August 2015, Major General Koo Hong-mo of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff described the mine-laying incident as “unthinkable for a normal military.”[10]

The US maintains no minefields anywhere in the world. The landmines already emplaced in and near the DMZ between North and South Korea are the responsibility of South Korean forces and not the US. The US cleared and destroyed the landmines laid around its Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 1999.[11]


Since 23 October 1992, US law has prohibited any exports of antipersonnel mines through a moratorium that has since been extended multiple times.[12]

The US exported antipersonnel landmines including more than 5.6 million antipersonnel mines to 38 countries between 1969 and 1992. Deminers in at least 28 mine-affected countries have reported the presence of US-manufactured antipersonnel mines, including non-self-destructing and self-destructing/self-deactivating types.


The US last produced antipersonnel mines in 1997.[13] Under the 2014 policy, the US has foresworn future production or acquisition of antipersonnel landmines.[14]

The Defense Department was supposed to conduct a detailed study of alternatives to antipersonnel mines and the impact of making no further use of the weapon, but no information has been released publicly from the study, as of October 2018. The 2014 decision to undertake a Department of Defense study into possible alternatives to antipersonnel landmines was widely criticized and it is unclear if this study was ever completed.[15]

No victim-activated munitions have been funded in the procurement or the research and development budgets of the US Armed Services or Defense Department in years.[16]

The US is modernizing its Volcano vehicle and helicopter landmine dispenser system and from 2023, the US intends to field a “Gator Landmine Replacement” networked munition system to “use non-lethal means to keep civilians away from dangerous areas.”[17] Both systems reportedly comply with the Mine Ban Treaty.


In 2014, the Department of Defense disclosed that the US has an “active stockpile of just more than 3 million anti-personnel mines.”[18] This is a significant reduction from the previous number reported in 2002 of approximately 10.4 million antipersonnel mines.[19]

The US stockpile consists mostly of remotely-delivered mines that are scattered over wide areas by aircraft or tube artillery and equipped with self-destruct features designed to blow the mine up after a pre-set period of time, as well as self-deactivating features. Various types of antipersonnel mines are stockpile according to the following table, which is significantly out of date.

US stockpiles of antipersonnel mines in 2010[20]


[quantity of antipersonnel mines in each]

Inside the US

Outside the US







M692 Artillery Delivered Antipersonnel Mine [36]





M74 Ground Emplaced Mine Scattering System [5]










Volcano (in M87 dispenser only) [1]





M86 Pursuit Deterrent Munition [1]





M131 Modular Pack Mine System [4]










Grand Total


Note: * The accounting for GATOR includes CBU-89 (22), CBU-104 (22), and CBU-78 (15) air-dropped bombs.

The shelf-life of existing antipersonnel mines stockpiled by the US decreases over time in part because batteries embedded inside the mines deteriorate as they age. The 2014 policy precludes the US from extending or modifying the life of the batteries in its stockpiled antipersonnel mines.[21]

A Defense Department spokesperson stated in 2014 that the existing antipersonnel mine stocks “will start to decline in their ability to be used about[sic]—starting in about 10 years. And in 10 years after that, they’ll be completely unusable.”[22]

Stockpile destruction

The 2014 policy commits the US to destroy its antipersonnel mine stockpiles “not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.” In 2015, the Secretary of State said the US “will begin destroying its anti-personnel landmine stockpiles not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.”[23]

All US stocks of weapons containing antipersonnel mines as well as munitions containing a mix of both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines that are not required for Korea must be removed from stocks located in the US, on supply ships, and in storage facilities overseas, then transported to a destruction facility.

Greater transparency is needed on the types and quantities of antipersonnel landmines to be destroyed and their inventory status as well as on implementation of the 2014 policy stockpile destruction requirement, including timeline and cost.[24]

No detailed information is publicly available, but it appears that US antipersonnel mines stocks not required for Korea are being destroyed.

In 2014, Expal USA—the US subsidiary of Spanish defense company Expal—won a contract to destroy Gator and Volcano mines at its facility in Marshall, Texas.[25] The estimated completion date is June 2020 according to Maxam, the multinational company that owns Expal.[26]

General Atomics built the US Army a special “munitions cryofracture demilitarization facility” at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma to destroy US stocks of ADAM mines through disassembly and cryofracture.[27] The destruction process started in December 2004 and was supposed to conclude by June 2018, but it’s unclear if this deadline was met.[28]

Since 2011, at least 96 M86 Pursuit Deterrent Munitions and 40 M74 antipersonnel mines as well as other “problematic munitions” have been destroyed in a static detonation chamber built to destroy US stocks of chemical weapons.[29]


In 2011, the US said a small quantity of “persistent mines” (non-self-destructing) had been retained for demining and counter-mine testing and training.[30]

[1] It’s unclear if the 2014 landmine policy was codified as a presidential directive like previous landmine policies announced in 1996, 1998, and 2004.

[2] At that time officials articulated US aspirations to join the treaty. For example, a Department of State fact sheet issued for 2015’s Mine Action Day referred to the “ultimate goal” of US accession to the Mine Ban Treaty. US Department of State, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Global Leadership in Landmine Clearance and Conventional Weapons Destruction,” 3 April 2015.

[3] Office of the Press Secretary, “Remarks by the President at Clinton Global Initiative,” The White House, 23 September 2014; and Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: Changes to U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine Policy,” The White House, 23 September 2014.

[4] The June 27 landmine policy announcement was made by the US ambassador to Mozambique at the Mine Ban Treaty’s Third Review Conference and detailed in a White House fact sheet. Statement by Ambassador Douglas Griffiths, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, Maputo, 27 June 2014; and Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: Changes to U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine Policy,” The White House, 27 June 2014.

[5] See, US Department of State, “Fact Sheet: New United States Policy on Landmines: Reducing Humanitarian Risk and Saving Lives of United States Soldiers,” Washington, DC, 27 February 2004.

[6] The use of a mine in Afghanistan was disclosed as part of the June 27 policy announcement. “And since the Ottawa Convention came into force in 1999, we are—or since 1991, excuse me—we are aware of only one confirmed operational employment by U.S. military forces, a single munition in Afghanistan in 2002.” US Department of State, “Daily Press Briefing: June 27, 2014,” 27 June 2014. In 1991, in Iraq and Kuwait, the US used 117,634 antipersonnel mines, mostly air-delivered. US General Accounting Office, “GAO-02-1003: MILITARY OPERATIONS: Information on US use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” September 2002, Appendix I, pp. 8–9.

[7] CJ Chivers, “Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban with Swift and Lethal Results,” New York Times, 17 April 2009; and “Taliban displays ‘US weapons,’Aljazeera, 10 November 2009. The use of Claymore mines in command-detonated mode, usually electrical or shock tube (non-electrical) detonation, is permitted by the Mine Ban Treaty, while use in victim-activated mode, usually with a tripwire, is prohibited. For many years, US policy and doctrine has prohibited the use of Claymore mines with tripwires, except in Korea. See, Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 346.

[8] Choe Sang-Hun, “U.S. and South Korea Agree to Delay Shift in Wartime Command,” New York Times, 24 October 2014.

[9] Human Rights Watch (HRW), Arms Project, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, “In Its Own Words: The U.S. Army and Antipersonnel Mines in the Korean and Vietnam Wars,” July 1997.

[10] Jethro Mullen and Kathy Novak, “South Korea: Propaganda broadcasts at North to resume after landmines,” CNN, 10 August 2015. See also USCBL Web Post, “New mine-laying in Korea condemned,” 10 August 2015.

[11] Beginning in 1961, the US emplaced approximately 50,000 antipersonnel and antivehicle mines along the perimeter of its facilities at Guantanamo Bay. Letter from Dr. George R. Schneiter, Director, Strategic and Tactical Systems, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, to Human Rights Watch, 21 March 2000.

[12] On 26 December 2007, the comprehensive US moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines was extended for six years until 2014. Public Law 110-161, Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Section 634(j), 26 December 2007, p. 487.

[14] The June 27 landmine policy announcement was made by the US ambassador to Mozambique at the Mine Ban Treaty’s Third Review Conference and detailed in a White House fact sheet. Statement by Ambassador Douglas Griffiths, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, Maputo, 27 June 2014; and Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: Changes to U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine Policy,” The White House, 27 June 2014.

[15] Letter to President Barack Obama, USCBL, 12 September 2014; and “A Step Closer to Banning Landmines,” The New York Times, 26 September 2014.

[16] Related programs on the XM-7 Spider Networked Munition and the IMS Scorpion once had the potential for victim-activated features (thereby making them antipersonnel mines as defined by the Mine Ban Treaty), but were made to be strictly “man-in-the-loop” or command-detonated and therefore permissible under the treaty. For background on Spider and IMS, and the decision not to include victim-activated features, see Landmine Monitor Report 2009, pp. 1,131–1,132; Landmine Monitor Report 2008, pp. 1,040–1,041; and earlier editions of the Monitor.

[17] Jen Judson, “US Army Dusting off Volcano Mine Dispensers,” DefenseNews, 21 December 2016.

[18] “We have an active stockpile of just over 3 million anti-personnel mines in the inventory.” US Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” 27 June 2014.

[19] Information provided by the US Armed Services in Spring/Summer 2002, cited in US General Accounting Office, “GAO-02-1003: MILITARY OPERATIONS: Information on U.S. use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” September 2002, Appendix I, pp. 39–43. See also, US entry in ICBL, Landmine Monitor Report 2009.

[20] Data on types and quantities from a 2010 Department of Defense document on file at HRW. Also listed in this document are 7.2 million antipersonnel mines that are “Unserviceable and Suspended” (190,458), “Former WRSA-K [War Reserve Stocks for Allies – Korea]” (520,050), and “demil” (6,528,568), which presumably means in the demilitarization account awaiting destruction.

[21] A US official confirmed to HRW that the US would not extend the shelf-life of existing systems, for example, by replacing their batteries. Meeting with US Delegation, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, Maputo, 27 June 2014. Unofficial notes by HRW.

[22] US Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” 27 June 2014. In 2010, the Department of Defense indicated that the batteries in self-destructing and self-deactivating mines have a shelf-life of 36 years and estimated that the shelf-life of batteries in the existing stockpile of antipersonnel mines would expire between 2014 and 2033. According to a 2010 Department of Defense document on file at HRW.

[23] Statement by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, 3 April 2015.

[25] US Army, Award Notice on “Conventional Ammunition Demilitarization,” 22 December 2014. In July 2010, the US Army issued a notice for contractors “for potential demilitarization” of the munitions. US Army, Notice on “Family of Scatterable Munitions (FASCAM) Demil,” 13 July 2010.

[26] MAXAM Press Release, “EXPAL USA receives $156 million U.S. army contract,” 16 June 2015. See also, LinkedIn, “Expal USA,” undated.

[27] General Atomics, “McAlester Army Ammunition Plant,” undated.

[29] Presentation by Timothy K. Garrett, Site Project Manager, Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, “Preparing to Process Problematic Munitions,” undated.

[30] David Alexander, “U.S. halts use of long-life landmines, officials say,” Reuters (Washington, DC), 14 February 2011.