Mine Action

Last updated: 23 October 2012

Contamination and Impact


Albania declared that it had completed clearance of all known mined areas in accordance with its Mine Ban Treaty obligations in October 2009.[1] Albania became contaminated by mines and other ordnance mainly as a result of the Kosovo crisis of 1998–1999 when forces of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia laid extensive minefields in the northeastern border districts of Has, Kukës, and Tropojë.[2] In a decade of demining operations started in 2000 by the Albanian Armed Forces (AAF) and which continued with several demining organizations such as RONCO, HELP, Swiss Foundation for Demining (FSD) and DanChurchAid (DCA), Albania released through survey and clearance a total of 16.6km2 of land, destroying 12,452 antipersonnel mines, 152 antivehicle mines, and 4,965 items of unexploded ordinance (UXO), including cluster munitions.[3]

Cluster munition remnants

Albania declared completion of clearance of all known unexploded submunitions in November 2009.[4] The northeast of the country had been contaminated with unexploded submunitions from at least six NATO cluster munitions during the conflict over Kosovo;[5] this left 44 areas covering 2.1km2 affected by unexploded submunitions, including BLU-97B, BL755, MK118 Rockeye, KB-1, and KB-2 submunitions. Between 1999 and 2005, there were 32 incidents involving submunitions, which resulted in nine deaths and 44 people injured.[6]

Other explosive remnants of war

Clearance of explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the northeast border region of Kukës, mainly UXO resulting from the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, was completed by the end of 2009.[7]

Albania still faces a threat from abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO) around former army ammunition storage sites which were destroyed and looted during internal turmoil in Albania in 1997, leaving tons of dangerous munitions scattered around. The AAF conducted surface clearance of 15 so-called hotspots in 2003, but technical assessment conducted by the Albanian Mines and Munitions Coordination Office (AMMCO, formerly the Albanian Mine Action Executive, AMAE), which visited most of these hotspots in 2011, showed that the areas still contain live and abandoned ammunition which attract the attention of scrap metal collectors and pose a serious risk of injury to civilians.[8] Albania plans to complete hotspot clearance by the end of 2014.[9]

Albania is also still tackling contamination that resulted from the 15 March 2008 explosion at a military depot used for demolition of munitions in Gerdec village, about 13km from the capital, Tirana. The explosion killed 27 people, injured some 300 others, and scattered up to 600,000 projectiles/pieces of 9,000 tons of UXO across four other villages, contaminating an area of approximately 3.5km2. The explosion completely destroyed some 200 houses and damaged approximately 1,500 to some degree (as well as 32 businesses and 34 farms), inflicting damage estimated at that time at US$18.75 million (€12.7 million).[10]

The AAF conducted emergency clearance from 17 March to 3 April 2008;[11] DCA carried out some emergency clearance in 2008;[12] and Sterling International/Explosive and Ordnance Demilitarisation Solutions (EODS) took over clearance in 2009.[13] There is no available estimate of the current size of the contamination.[14]

Albania has also had to dispose of substantial stocks of obsolete munitions held in poorly maintained military depots near populated areas. As of the end of 2010, it still had about 74,000 tons of these dangerous surplus munitions, but by the end of 2011 stocks had fallen to 26,000 tons (26 million kg).[15] Albania has planned to complete destruction of these stocks by the end of 2013.[16]

Mine Action Program

Key institutions and operators


Situation on 1 January 2012

National Mine Action Authority

Albanian Mine Action Committee

Mine action center

Albanian Mines and Munitions Coordination Office

International demining operators

NGO: DanChurchAid

Commercial: Sterling International Explosive and Ordnance Demilitarisation


National demining operators

Albanian Armed Forces

International risk education operators

ICRC (financial support to Albanian Red Cross)

National risk education operators

Albanian Red Cross


The Albanian Mine Action Committee (AMAC), an interministerial body formed in October 1999, serves as the “executive and policy making body for mine action” in Albania.[17] In 2008, AMAC contributed to the emergency response to the Gerdec explosion but responsibility for the operations in Gerdec was with the Ministry of Defense[18] until mid-2011.[19]

The AMAE, set up at the same time as AMAC, coordinated and monitored mine action in Albania until completion of demining at the end of 2010. In December 2010, the Ministry of Defense engaged AMAE to assist in tackling hotspots to help ensure that clearance and ammunition disposal was conducted according to international standards. In addition, AMAE was converted to AMMCO.[20] The Ministry of Defense and UNDP signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2011 which will run to December 2013 under which UNDP will give AMMCO technical and financial support and help to develop a humanitarian framework and standards for clearing hotspots. The Ministry of Defense provides storage for unexploded ammunition and is responsible for its destruction.[21]

Under an agreement between the Albanian Ministry of Defense and the United States (US) State Department, the International Trust Fund: Enhancing Human Security (ITF) contracted Sterling International/EODS in 2011 to clear ammunition hotspots. Sterling International/EODS subcontracted DCA, which had conducted mine clearance until 2009, to clear two hotspots in Ura e Gjadrit (Shkoder) and Gjeroven (Berat) in 2012.[22] Under this process, the AAF explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams are responsible for transporting ammunition found during clearance for disposal. The role of the AAF EOD teams was expected to increase in 2012.[23]

Sterling International/EODS also supports the Albanian Armed Forces in UXO/ammunition clearance and removal in Gerdec.[24]

Land Release

No mine clearance or cluster munition clearance activities were conducted in Albania during 2011. As noted above, major clearance operations were completed in 2009.[25]

Five-year summary of clearance[26]


Mined area cleared (m2)

Battle area cleared (m2)




















Survey in 2011

In July to December 2011, an AMMCO team supported by a senior technical advisor from the Swiss Armed Forces conducted technical assessments of 15 hotspots in 11 locations, with three more remaining to be conducted during 2012. Of the 15 assessed, three were rated as high risk and therefore a high priority for clearance; two were discounted as presenting no risk; the remainder were categorized as either low or medium risk.[27] The assessments were designed to identify the exact location of hazards, determine clearance requirements, develop standing operating procedures for quality assurance and control, and determine the impact of hazards on the community and the need for risk education (RE) and victim assistance.[28]

In general, the assessment team found that all hotspots contain dangerous, scattered ammunition despite several surface clearance operations conducted in the past by the AAF. Ammunition attracts scrap metal collectors with the consequent risk to life and limb.[29]

Compliance with Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty, Albania was required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 August 2010. Albania reported completion and the fulfillment of its Article 5 obligations in October 2009.[30]

Compliance with Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Albania became a State Party on 1 August 2010 upon entry into force of the convention with a deadline for clearance of all unexploded submunitions of 1 August 2020. A general survey in 1999 had identified 44 areas contaminated by cluster munitions covering 2.1km2. Albania stated in November 2009 that it had already completed clearance of all remaining contaminated areas with the destruction of 4,869 unexploded submunitions.[31]

Battle area clearance in 2011

Ordnance Demilitarization Solutions (based in the United Kingdom) was subcontracted by Sterling International/EODS to clear contamination at Gerdec; it continued operations in 2011 in cooperation with the AAF. This project is conducted under a Technical Agreement between the Albanian Ministry of Defense and the US State Department.[32]

In 2011, teams cleared or deep searched a total of 111,329m2, finding a total of 4,339 items of ordnance, including 2,747 items found during deep search operations. Overall, 2,856 items were moved to storage and 1,474 munitions destroyed.[33] Since the beginning of the project, Sterling International/EODS has searched 273,760m2 to a depth of up to two meters on flat ground and 1.5 meters on hills, finding 21,709 munitions.[34]

Sterling International/EODS started another project in Gerdec in September 2011 to assist the AAF to remove an estimated 300,000 fuzes. By the end of 2011, Sterling International /EODS had removed 723 live fuzes, 6,793 parts of fuzes, and 18 high-explosive shells.[35]

DCA, subcontracted by Sterling International/EODS and funded by the US State Department, started operating in November 2011 on a hotspot at Ura e Gjadrit, near the Gjader river covering 91,000m². The AAF had previously conducted surface clearance in the area, but an assessment in July 2011 found mortar rounds, small arms ammunition, and mortar fuzes.[36] As of 27 January 2012, DCA teams had cleared a total of 32,620m2, removing 509 fuzes, 350 artillery shells, 68 mortars, 76 hand-grenades, and seven rocket-propelled grenades, as well as quantities of small arms ammunition.[37]

Quality management

An AMMCO monitoring team conducted six quality control and two quality assurance inspections of hotspot clearance operations in 2011. The AMMCO team consists of one team leader and two monitors.[38]

Safety of demining personnel

No demining accidents occurred during 2011.[39]

Risk Education

The AMMCO monitored and coordinated RE activities, conducted by the Albanian Red Cross (ARC) in 12 regions in Albania.[40]

The ARC implemented a data collection project in 12 prefectures. In addition, 5,000 leaflets prepared in consultation with AMMCO were distributed by ARC volunteers to areas affected by unexploded ammunition and containing messages for a safe behavior. The ARC, with funding from the ICRC, produced and distributed 2,000 new posters, mainly to areas around the hotspots where clearance operations were under way.[41]


[1] Statement by Petrit Karabina, Chair, Albanian Mine Action Committee (AMAC), Tirana Workshop on Achieving a Mine-Free South Eastern Europe, Tirana, 8 October 2009.

[2] Statement of Albania, Second Review Conference, Cartagena, 30 November 2009.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Statement of Albania, High-Level Segment, Second Review Conference, Cartagena, 3 December 2009.

[5] Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE), “Mine Action History,”

[6] Email from Arben Braha, Director, AMAE, 20 April 2010; and Presentation by Aida Alla, Public Information Officer, AMAE, on Albania’s completion of clearance of cluster munition contaminated areas, “After Oslo 2008” Workshop on Cluster Munitions, Rakitje, Croatia, 10 February 2010.

[7] Email from Arben Braha, AMAE, 7 May 2010; and Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2009), Annex A.

[8] Email from Arben Braha, Director, Albanian Mines and Munitions Coordination Office (AMMCO), 8 February 2012.

[9] Telephone interview with Arben Braha, AMMCO, 31 May 2012.

[10] ITF “Enhancing Human Security” Annual Report 2011, February 2012, p. 89; emails from Gregor Sancanin, Project Manager, ITF, 28 March 2011; and from Gasper Plesko, Project Manager, ITF, 25 March 2010; and Statement by Col. Xhevdet Zeneli, Commander of Military Operations, Press conference, Gerdec, during the Emergency Period, News 24 TV, 26 March 2008. Average exchange rate for 2010: €1 = US$1.4726. US Federal Reserve, “List of Exchange Rates (Annual),” 3 January 2012.

[11] Aulona Kadillari, “Gerdec is cleared of UXO,” Tirana Observer, 3 April 2008,  

[12] Email from Anthony Connell, Programme Manager, DCA, 30 March 2009.

[13] Email from Shane Franklin, Country Representative, Sterling International Explosive and Ordnance Demilitarisation Solutions, 26 March 2010.

[14] Email from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 3 May 2012.

[15] Email from Gregor Sancanin, ITF, 28 March 2011; interview with Arben Braha, AMAE, in Geneva, 25 May 2009; and see Presentation by Gazmend Oketa, Minister of Defense, “Albania has in its territory about 100,000 tons of munitions,” Roundtable on the topic: “Disposal of Excess Ammunition – Enhancement of National Security,” Tirana, 18 July 2008.

[16] Telephone interview with Arben Braha, AMMCO, 31 May 2012.

[17] See AMAE, “Albanian Mine Action Program,” undated.

[18] Interview with Arben Braha, AMAE, in Geneva, 25 May 2009.

[19] Email from Arben Braha, AMAE, 8 February 2012.

[20] Email from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 8 February 2012.

[21] Ibid., 13 and 26 June 2012.

[22] Ibid., 8 February and 13 June 2012.

[23] Telephone interview with Arben Braha, AMMCO, 31 May 2012.

[24] Email from Shane M. Franklin, Deputy Project Manager – Albania, Sterling International/EODS, 7 March 2011.

[25] Email from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 8 February 2012.

[26] Emails from Arben Braha, AMAE, 20 April 2010 and 25 February 2011.

[27] Emails from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 8 February and 2 May 2012.

[28] Ibid., 8 February 2012.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Statement of Albania, Second Review Conference, Cartagena, 30 November 2009.

[31] Statement of Albania, High-Level Segment, Second Review Conference, Cartagena, 3 December 2009; and Presentation by Aida Alla, AMAE, on Albania’s completion of clearance of cluster munition contaminated areas, 10 February 2010.

[32] Email from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 2 May 2012; and from Shane M. Franklin, Sterling International, 7 March 2011.

[33] Email from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 2 May 2012; ITF, “Enhancing Human Security”, Annual Report 2011, February 2012, p. 90.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Email from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 2 May 2012; ITF, “Enhancing Human Security”, Annual Report 2011, February 2012, p. 91.

[36] Email from Arben Braha, AMMCO, 8 February 2012.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid., 8 February and 3 May 2012.

[39] Ibid., 8 February 2012.

[40] Ibid., 2 May 2012.

[41] Ibid.