, MAPUTO, May 14 – Demining along the power lines connecting Mozambique to South Africa is set to begin on Friday, an official with British charity HALO Trust said.
The United Nations-funded project will bring Mozambique a step closer to ridding itself of the land mines dating from its 16-year civil war, which ended in 1992.
"We’re looking at there still being about 20,000 mines left on the pylon line," said HALO Trust official Helen Gray.
The high-tension lines, which deliver South African electricity to Mozambique’s capital Maputo, are supported by 200 pylons along an 80-kilometre (50-mile) stretch.
Each pylon was mined with up to 200 mines during the war, she added.
Despite an initial phase of demining in 2007, they still take their toll on those who live in the area, she said.
"There certainly have been accidents along the pylon line," Gray said.
"In the clearing we did in 2007, we found skeletons along the foot of the pylons… There are reports of cows blowing up almost on a weekly basis."
Previous demining gave the state electric company, EDM, access to the lines for maintenance.
But the job of demining was never completed once the energy supply was secure, Gray said.
"It just goes to show the difference between commercial demining and humanitarian clearance," she said.
Mozambique was supposed to finish demining this year under the Ottawa Treaty against anti-personnel mines.
But in 2008, with 12 million square metres still not cleared and international funding for demining drying up, the government requested an extension until 2014.
Mozambique aims to clear two million square metres of mined territory per year.
But Gray said demining efforts are not getting enough attention.
"The funding is still insufficient," she said.
"I have over 200 metal detectors sitting in containers at the moment, but I don’t have salaries to put deminers in the lanes."