United States

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 16 November 2020


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

On 31 January 2020, the administration of President Donald Trump announced new policy rolling back US prohibitions on landmine production and use.[1] The new policy—detailed below—has taken the US off the path towards joining the Mine Ban Treaty, a goal set by the Obama administration in 2014.

The US was the first country to call for the “eventual elimination” of antipersonnel mines in September 1994. It participated in the Ottawa Process to ban landmines, but did not adopt or sign the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. That year, the Clinton administration set the goal for the US to join the treaty in 2006, an objective that the Bush administration then reversed in 2004.[2]

Since 2009, the US has participated as an observer in meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty.[3] It was present at, but did not address the treaty’s Fourth Review Conference in Oslo in November 2019.

In December 2019, the US abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 74/61 calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. The US has abstained from every Mine Ban Treaty resolution since 1998.

The US is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and provided an annual transparency report for Amended Protocol II on landmines on 10 April 2020.

2020 landmine policy

The 2020 landmine policy allows the US to develop, produce, and use landmines as long as they are “non-persistent,” that is, equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation features. The policy abandons the previous constraint on using antipersonnel mines only on the Korean peninsula and instead permits the US to use them anywhere in the world.

The policy makes no distinction between antipersonnel and antivehicle mines, but the White House spokesperson stated that antipersonnel landmines are the focus of the new policy. The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits antipersonnel mines, but not antivehicle mines or command-detonated (remote-controlled) mines. It comprehensively bans all types of victim-activated explosive devices, regardless of their predicted longevity, delivery method, or type of manufacture (improvised or factory-made).

A Department of Defense fact sheet issued with the policy, entitled “Strategic Advantages of Landmines,” asserts that landmines are “a vital tool in conventional warfare” that provide “a necessary warfighting capability…while reducing the risk of unintended harm to non-combatants.” Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) prepared by the Department of Defensefor the policy announcement assert that the US needs landmines now, because “the strategic environment has changed” since 2014 with “the return of Great Power Competition and a focus on near-peer competitors” or adversaries. Defense officials announcing the policy told media they could envision the US using landmines in a variety of theaters against a range of adversaries, such as Russia and China.[4]

The Trump administration’s decision to reverse US prohibitions and limits on landmines has been widely condemned and criticized, including by the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL). Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said it “reverses the gains we have made and weakens our global leadership.”[5] On 6 May 2020, Leahy, Representative Jim McGovern, and more than 100 other members of Congress wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper expressing disappointment at the policy reversal, regret at the lack of consultation, and providing three pages of questions regarding future plans for development and use of antipersonnel mines.[6] The Department of Defense provided a detailed 12-page response in September 2020.

Department of Defense officials have said the US does not intend to pressure partners and allies to change their landmine policies, nor will the new US policy prevent it from conducting future operations in coalition with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other partners.

Mine Ban Treaty President, Ambassador Osman Abufatima Adam Mohammed of Sudan, issued a statement that said the policy “goes against” the “long-standing commitment” made by the US to help eradicate the suffering caused by landmines. States Parties including Belgium,[7] France, Germany,[8] the Netherlands,[9] Norway,[10] and Switzerland[11] expressed their concern and disappointment over the new US policy, as did the European Union.[12]

Previously, in 2014, the Obama administration issued a US landmine policy banning production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines as well as halting their use by the US anywhere except the Korean Peninsula.[13] The Obama administration brought US policy further in line with the Mine Ban Treaty, but did not take any measures towards US accession.[14]

Under the 2014 policy, the US 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. It also committed to no future US production or acquisition of antipersonnel mines.


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.[15] 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.[16]

The 2020 policy allows the US to develop, produce, and use landmines as long as they are “non-persistent,” that is, equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation features. It abandons the previous constraint on using antipersonnel mines only on the Korean peninsula and instead permits the US to use them anywhere in the world.

The policy lowers the authorization for use of landmines to the level of a four-star general acting as a regional commander. Previous policy—since 1996—required authorization at the Presidential level. The Department of Defense said in September 2020 that “the President, as the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, could either specifically authorize or restrict the use of anti-personnel landmines.”

According to FAQs prepared by the Department of Defense for the 2020 policy announcement, “Commanders will only approve the use of landmines when necessary for mission success in major contingencies or other exceptional circumstances.” This “exceptional circumstances caveat…indicates the tool [landmines] will not be a default option.” The FAQs also state that “anti-personnel landmines will be used in situations where they are most appropriate, can be used within the confines of DoD’s [Department of Defense] policy and when alternatives are not viable.” The September 2020 response from the Department of Defense states that the requirement to only use antipersonnel mines “when necessary for mission success in ‘major contingencies’ and ‘other exceptional circumstances’ indicates that the use of landmines will not be a default option.”

The Department of Defense has long cited the need for the US to use antipersonnel mines on the Korean Peninsula 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.[17]

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.”[18]

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.[19]


Since 23 October 1992, US law has prohibited any exports of antipersonnel mines through a comprehensive moratorium that has since been extended multiple times.[20] The 2020 policy states that it “will not seek to transfer landmines except as provided for under US law.”

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.[21] Under the Trump administration policy, the US may acquire “area denial systems” or landmines that have an “on/off” feature, allowing them to be remotely activated to address an imminent or probable threat then de-activated when the threat subsides.

No antipersonnel mines or other victim-activated munitions are being funded in the fiscal year 2021 ammunition procurement budgets of the US Armed Services or Defense Department.

The last time the US produced antipersonnel mines was in 1997, when it manufactured 450,000 ADAM and 13,200 CBU-89/B Gator self-destructing/self-deactivating antipersonnel mines for $120 million. The last non-self-destruct antipersonnel mines were procured in 1990, when the US Army bought nearly 80,000 M16A1 antipersonnel mines for $1.9 million.

Alternatives to antipersonnel mines

For more than 20 years, the US has spent approximately 2 billion dollars to develop and produce weapons systems that could be considered alternatives to antipersonnel mines.[22] The 2020 policy does not appear to abandon that long-standing search as it states that “the Military Departments should explore acquiring landmines and landmine alternatives that could further reduce the risk of unintended harm to noncombatants.” (Emphasis added).

Previously, in 2016, the US announced that it was modernizing its Volcano vehicle and helicopter landmine dispenser system and from 2023 it intended to field a “Gator Landmine Replacement” networked munition system to “use non-lethal means to keep civilians away from dangerous areas.”[23] Before that, the US undertook alternatives programs including the XM-7 Spider Networked Munition and the IMS Scorpion. Both initially had the potential for victim-activated features (thereby making them antipersonnel mines) but the Department of Defense later indicated they would be command-detonated and not victim-activated.

Fiscal Year 2021 budget justification materials do not specify if the victim-activated feature of Spider, called the “battlefield over-ride” feature, will be reinserted as the system is modernized in coming years. The M87A1 Volcano uses M74 antivehicle mines containing a magnetic influence fuze as well as self-destruct and self-deactivation features. TheVolcano system has three different initiation methods, including the Spider or “SAVO system” which initiates when the Volcano canister deploys its payload, dispensing the mines that will remain active for approximately 48 hours then self-destruct. Previously, M87 Volcano canisters contained antivehicle mine and one antipersonnel mine.

In its September 2020 reply to Congress, the Department of Defense refused to answer if its future “terrain shaping area denial munitions” would be consistent with the Mine Ban Treaty definition of an antipersonnel mine. However, it also stated that the Volcano air and ground dispensers “will use common anti-tank landmines and common anti-personnel landmines with three self-destruct times.” The Department of Defense argued that antipersonnel mines are necessary in ‘mixed systems’ to “discourage and delay adversaries from hand clearing of minefields intended to block, fix, or channel enemy tanks and vehicles.”


In 2014, the Department of Defense disclosed that the US has an “active stockpile of just more than 3 million anti-personnel mines.”[24] This is a significant reduction from the previous number reported in 2002 of approximately 10.4 million antipersonnel mines.[25] The 2020 policy announcement did not provide an updated number of antipersonnel landmines still stockpiled by the US.

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[26]


[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 (Antipersonnel mines)


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

Stockpile destruction

The existing US stockpile of antipersonnel mines is expected to expire—become unusable—by the early 2030s, in part because their shelf-life of 36 years decreases over time as batteries embedded inside the mines deteriorate with age. The 2014 policy precluded the US from extending or modifying the life of the batteries in its stockpiled antipersonnel mines.[27]

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.”[28]

According to the 2020 policy, the Department of Defense will “maintain a robust stockpile surveillance program to ensure the operational quality and reliability of landmines, particularly the reliability of self-destruction mechanisms and self-deactivation features.” A Department of Defense fact sheet claims that “reliability of safety features of the landmines in the operational inventory is very high.”

The 2014 policy committed the US to destroy antipersonnel mines that were “not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.[29] 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.[30] The estimated completion date was June 2020 according to Maxam, the multinational company that owns Expal.[31]

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.[32] The destruction process started in December 2004 and was supposed to conclude by June 2018, but it is unclear if this deadline was met.[33]

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.[34]

It is unclear how many landmines were destroyed prior to the 2020 policy change.


In 2020, the US said a small quantity of “persistent mines” (non-self-destructing) are retained for demining and counter-mine testing and training.[35]

[2] 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.

[3] The US attended the Second Review Conference in Cartagena in November 2009. Since then, it has participated in every Meeting of States Parties, the Third Review Conference in Maputo in June 2014, and treaty’s intersessional meetings in Geneva, most recently in June 2020,

[4] Jeff Seldin, “US Ends Self-Imposed Ban on Use of Landmines,” Voice of America, 31 January 2020,.

[6] Letter to Mark Esper, US Secretary of State, from Senator Patrick Leahy and more than 100 other Congressional representatives, 6 May 2020, bit.ly/LeahyLetterMay2020.

[7] MFA, Belgium (BelgiumMFA), “Anti-personnel mines do not make countries safe. Their use has been drastically reduced thanks to #MineBanTreaty, a cornerstone of humanitarian disarmament. We regret the new US landmine policy which is out of sync with global progress towards a mine-free world.” 4 February 2020, 18:43 UTC. Tweet.

[8] Annen, Niels (NielsAnnen), “Präsident Trumps Entscheidung, das Verbot zum Einsatz von Landminen zu ignorieren, ist ein schwerer Rückschlag für die langjährigen internationalen Bemühungen, diese tödliche Waffe zu ächten. @AuswaertigesAmt @GermanyUN.” (“President Trump's decision to ignore the landmine ban is a severe blow to longstanding international efforts to outlaw this deadly weapon”). 3 February 2020, 08:34 UTC. Tweet.

[9] Disarmament, NL-Amb (RobGabrielse), “The Netherlands is disheartened by the US’ decision to lift its 2014 policy on anti-personnel landmines. See also the statement by the Spokesperson of HR/VP Borrell Fontelles regarding this decision.” 4 February 2020, 19:38 UTC. Tweet.

[10] MFA, Norway (NorwayMFA), “#LandMines kill and mutilate thousands of civilians every year, most of them children. Norway is a strong supporter of the @MineBanTreaty. We call upon the US to respect the ban on anti-personnel mines, and to continue to support survey and clearance of mines - FM #EriksenSoreide.” 5 February 2020, 08:34 UTC. Tweet.

[11] EDA-DFEA (EDA_DFAE), “La Suisse poursuit l'objectif d'un monde exempt de mines anti-personnel. C'est pourquoi le DFAE regrette l'annonce du président des Etats-Unis d'y recourir à nouveau.” (“Switzerland pursues the goal of a world free of anti-personnel mines. This is why the FDFA regrets the announcement of the President of the United States to use it again”). 7 February 2020, 14:15 UTC. Tweet.

[13] 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; 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.

[14] 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.

[15] The use of a mine in Afghanistan was disclosed as part of the June 2014 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.

[16] 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.

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

[18] 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.

[19] 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.

[20] 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.

[22] HRW, Clinton’s Landmine Legacy, 9 July 2000.

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

[24] “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.

[25] 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.

[26] 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.

[27] 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.

[28] 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.

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

[30] 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.

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

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

[34] 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.

[35] Presentation by US Department of Defense officials to civil society organizations, 13 February 2020.