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A minimum metal mine is a land mine that is designed to use the absolute smallest amount of metal possible in its construction in order for it to still function.[1] Both minimum metal anti-tank and anti-personnel mines exist. Some designs contain virtually no metal at all (less than a gram). Typically this is achieved by encasing the explosive charge in a plastic, wooden, or glass body, with metallic components limited to the few small parts that can not easily be made from other materials, such as the spring, striker tip, and shear wire. Minimum metal mines are extremely difficult to detect using conventional metal mine detectors and usually require modern techniques, such as robotic Multi Period Sensing (MPS) equipment, to identify. These techniques are usually restricted to well-funded international mine clearing organizations and major militaries, making minimum metal mines especially pernicious where they are encountered.[2]


Early examples included the German Glasmine 43, Schu-mine 42 and Topfmine used during World War II. These designs were either difficult or impossible to find using 1940s metal detectors.

Many different types of minimum metal mines have been produced in various countries over the years. Relatively modern examples include the antitank mines M19 (USA, less than 3g of metal) and TMA-3 (Serbia, no metal) and the anti-personnel mines PRB M-409 (Belgium, less than 1g) and the PMA-2 or PMA-3 Serbia, (approx 1g non-magnetic) and VS-50 (Italy). Since the 1970s and until 1993 (when the country enacted a national landmines manufacturing ban, four years before signing the Ottawa Treaty) Italy became a world leader in the manufacture of minimum metal mines; the three main Italian landmine manufacturers were mostly producing minimum-metal by the early 1980s. Valsella Meccanotecnica SpA manufactured the VS-50 and VS-Mk2. Misar SpA produced the SB-81 and SB-33, and Tecnovar Italiana SpA produced the TS-50), and the TC/3.6 and TC/6 mines).

Non-metallic mines

Though rare, a few land mine designs (both anti-tank and anti-personnel) contain no metal whatsoever.[3] Such mines cannot be found using metal detectors because there is no metal to detect. Typically, 100% non-metallic landmines have a plastic case and a fuze which comprises a glass or plastic vial containing a mixture of friction-sensitive pyrotechnic composition and glass powder. Downward pressure on the pressure plate overcomes the breaking strain of a plastic shear pin which snaps. Pressure is then transferred to the glass vial, crushing and fracturing it. Alternatively, when the shear pin breaks, pressure on the fuze is transferred onto a plastic belleville spring which flips downwards, stabbing a non-metallic tapered pin (sometimes made from a glass ceramic) through a thin plastic membrane covering the vial of friction-sensitive pyrotechnic mixture. Either way, this action causes a flash of flame that triggers the detonator and initiates the adjacent booster which in turn detonates the main explosive filling.


See also

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