United States

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 15 November 2021


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

Landmine policy announced by the administration of President Donald Trump on 31 January 2020, which is detailed below, has taken the US off the path toward joining the Mine Ban Treaty.[1]

President Joe Biden has yet to comment on the US position on banning antipersonnel landmines or accession to the Mine Ban Treaty since becoming president. US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the United Nations (UN) Security Council on 8 April 2021 that “President Biden believes we need to curtail the use of landmines” and “has been clear that he intends to roll back” the Trump administration policy.[2]

After becoming the first country to call for the “eventual elimination” of antipersonnel mines in September 1994, the US participated in the Ottawa Process to ban landmines. Yet it 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. The Bush administration reversed this objective in 2004.[3] Policy announced by the Obama administration in 2014 brought US policy further in line with the Mine Ban Treaty,[4] but the Trump administration later firmly rejected the notion of US accession to the treaty.

The US has participated as an observer in meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty since the Second Review Conference in 2009.[5] The US was present at the treaty’s Fourth Review Conference in Oslo in November 2019, but did not make a statement. On 7 December 2020, the US abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 75/52, calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. The US has abstained from every annual Mine Ban Treaty resolution at the UNGA 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 29 April 2021.

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.[6] 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.

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 in the Korean Peninsula.[7]

The 2020 policy makes no distinction between antipersonnel and antivehicle mines, though a 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 factsheet issued alongside 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 Defense for the policy announcement assert that the US needs landmines 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 that they could envision the US using landmines in a variety of theaters against a range of adversaries, such as Russia and China.[8]

The Trump administration’s decision to reverse US prohibitions and limits on landmine use was widely condemned and criticized, including by states such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland.[9] During the 2020 presidential election campaign, Biden pledged that as president he would “roll back this deeply misguided decision.”[10] He criticized the “reversal of years of considered decisions by Democratic and Republican presidents” to curtail the use of landmines and said the 2020 policy “will put more civilians at risk of being injured by unexploded mines, and is unnecessary from a military perspective.”

On 6 May 2020, Senator Patrick 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, and provided three pages of questions regarding future plans for the development and use of antipersonnel mines.[11] The Department of Defense provided a detailed 12-page response in September 2020.

On 28 April 2021, a sign-on letter from the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL) and its allies strongly encouraged President Biden to adopt a policy that sets the United States on course not just to “curtail the use of landmines,” but to ban their use, production, acquisition, and transfer and swiftly accede to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.[12]

An official stated in April 2021 that the Department of Defense was considering “whether or not further review of our landmine policy is warranted.”[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.[14] 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.[15]

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 landmines 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’s] policy and when alternatives are not viable.” In September 2020, the Department of Defense stated that the requirement to only use antipersonnel landmines “when necessary for mission success in ‘major contingencies’ and ‘other exceptional circumstances’ indicates that the use of landmines will not be a default option.”[16]

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 that the US would violate the 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 Korea arsenal compared to North Korea’s weapons, as sufficient to compensate for not using mines. In addition, a former commander of US forces in South Korea, the late Lieutenant-General 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 demilitarized zone (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 the US “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, and then deactivated when the threat subsides.

No antipersonnel landmines, or other victim-activated munitions, are funded in the ammunition procurement budgets of the US Armed Services or Defense Department for fiscal year 2022.

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 a total of US$120 million. The last non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines were procured in 1990, when the US Army bought nearly 80,000 M16A1 antipersonnel mines for a total of $1.9 million.

Alternatives to antipersonnel mines

For more than 20 years, the US has spent in excess of two 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 research, 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.”

In a 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 the Fiscal Year 2022 budget request—the first prepared by the Biden Administration—there is no reference to the 2020 Trump landmine policy aside from an assertion that the programs being funded will be compliant with US national landmine policy, whatever that is at the time.

Existing programs are in the advanced concept development and prototype stage of the research and development cycle, and decisions to produce any systems will not be made before 2023.

One program relates to a stand-off wireless communications activation system for Volcano, called SAVO. It allows for three existing remote activation systems to deploy (fire and scatter) existing Volcano mine cannisters: one with five antivehicle mines and one antipersonnel mine (called M87) as well as the antivehicle mine only variant (called M87A1). Under this program, items such as the M7 Spider Networked Munition would be able to give the command to fire and deploy Volcano mines from their cannisters (either M87 or M87A1) but would not be able to control the lifespan of the mines or turn them “on/off.” This is a $4 million program in Fiscal Year 2022, with the goal of developing an initial operating capability by 2023 and a full inventory by 2026.[23]

A second program relates to the “terrain shaping” obstacle system called CTSO, with two projects in the advanced development and prototype phase. CTSO is a $40 million program, with decisions to be made in 2025–2026.[24] The first project is a resurrection of a weapon concept conceived in the 1970s and developed over the ensuing decades, called “Wide Area Munition,” which was also at one point called the M93 Hornet system. The current iteration is known as the XM-204 Interim Top-Attack Munition. This is a hand emplaced antivehicle explosive munition; essentially a single sensor-fuzed warhead, mated to a seismic detection/cueing sensor, that jumps into the air and operates like SADARM/SFW in attacking the top side of armored vehicles.[25]

The second project within CTSO relates to the Common Anti-Vehicular Munition, which is being designed to be capable of both top and bottom attack, meaning that it could be delivered in the air or emplaced on the ground. Few details about this project are available, but it is believed to be a continuation of a “Gator Landmine Replacement” networked munition system to “use non-lethal means to keep civilians away from dangerous areas.”[26]

Previously, 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 that they would be command-detonated and not victim-activated. The XM-7 Spider Networked Munition has been produced and used in combat, while the IMS Scorpion project was cancelled.


In 2014, the Department of Defense disclosed that the US has an “active stockpile of just more than 3 million anti-personnel mines.”[27] This is a significant reduction from the previous total, reported in 2002, when the US had a stockpile of around 10.4 million antipersonnel mines.[28] 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 stockpiled, according to the following table, which lists the latest publicly available figures dating from 2010.

US stockpiles of antipersonnel mines in 2010[29]


[quantity of antipersonnel mines in each]

Stockpiled inside the US

Stockpiled 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]










Total (antipersonnel mines stockpiled)


* 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—meaning that the mines will 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.[30]

A Department of Defense 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.”[31]

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 factsheet claims that the “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.’’[32] 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.[33] The estimated completion date was June 2020, according to MAXAM, the multinational company that owns Expal.[34]

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.[35] The destruction process started in December 2004 and was supposed to have concluded by June 2018, but it is unclear whether this deadline was met.[36]

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.[37]

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


In 2020, the US said that a small quantity of “persistent mines” (non-self-destructing) are retained for demining and counter-mine testing and training.[38]

[1] Statement from the White House Press Secretary, 31 January 2020; and US Department of Defense, “Memorandum: DoD Policy on Landmines,” 31 January 2020.

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

[5] 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 intersessional meetings, most recently in June 2020.

[6] Statement from the White House Press Secretary, 31 January 2020; and US Department of Defense, “Memorandum: DoD Policy on Landmines,” 31 January 2020.

[7] 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.

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

[9] 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; 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; 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; 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 ; 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; and European Union (EU), “Anti-personnel mines: Statement by the Spokesperson on the United States’ decision to re-introduce their use,” 4 February 2020.

[10] Alex Ward, ‘‘6 top 2020 Democrats vow to reverse Trump’s new landmine policy,” Vox, 6 February 2020.

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

[12] Letter to President Joe Biden from USCBL, ‘‘Building U.S. Landmines Policy Back and Better,’’ 28 April 2021.

[13] John Ismay and Rick Gladstone, “Biden Keeps Trump’s Policy Retaining Land Mines in U.S. Arsenal, for Now,” The New York Times, 6 April 2021.

[14] 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,” 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.

[15] C. J. Chivers, “Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban with Swift and Lethal Results,” The New York Times, 17 April 2009; and “Taliban displays ‘US weapons,’Al Jazeera, 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. 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 on the Korean Peninsula. See ICBL, Landmine Monitor Report 2000: Toward a Mine-Free World (New York: HRW, August 2000), p. 346.

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

[18] HRW, Arms Project, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), “In Its Own Words: The U.S. Army and Antipersonnel Mines in the Korean and Vietnam Wars,” 1 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 HRW, 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] Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Estimates, “Army Justification Book Volume 2a of 2, Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Army RDT&E − Volume II, Budget Activity 4,” May 2021, pp. 80–94.

[24] Ibid., pp. 180–187.

[25] For visualizations, see: Joseph Trevithick, ‘‘The Army Wants Networked Mines That Leap Up To Attack The Tops Of Tanks,’’ The Drive, 6 April 2021.

[26] Jen Judson, “US Army Dusting off Volcano Mine Dispensers,” Defense News, 21 December 2016.

[27] “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.

[28] 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: Toward a Mine-Free World (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, October 2009).

[29] 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.

[30] 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. Notes by HRW.

[31] 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.

[32] In 2015, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that 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.

[33] 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.

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

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

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

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