Commercial Demining and Security Industries Consolidating, Merging

There have always been links between the commercial demining, private security and defense industries. In the early 1990s, arms and security companies like Royal Ordnance (now BAE Systems Land and Armaments), MECHEM (part of South African arms firm DENEL), Saracen International and DSL (now ArmorGroup) played a prominant role in the developing sector of ‘humanitarian’ demining. In those early years, some commercial demining companies were accused of ‘double dipping’ for being involved in both mine production and clearance.

These days we seem to be observing even greater consolidation — blurring the lines between civilian demining companies and the more militarized private security contractors.  This has been driven largely by the security contracting boom in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as commercial deminers working in much more insecure conditions than previously.

DynCorp, which has a particularly controversial reputation as a provider of private security, police and counternarcotics services, is one of the three main pre-selected contractors for the State Department’s mine action programs.  The other two State Department contractors, ArmorGroup and RONCO were recently bought up by global security giant Group 4 Securicor (see this article on the RONCO purchase, and this one on ArmorGroup).

Other demining and EOD firms are moving into private security provision.  They often developed an internal security capacity while working in a dangerous place and then found it profitable to provide this service to other clients.  EODT claims to offer “a range of direct security solutions for clients in high-risk situations.” MineTech sells “highly skilled Explosive Detection Dogs to security and affiliated companies.”  UXB claims to “have the capability to perform site security threat and facility vulnerability assessments, and provide turn-key security and safety solutions.”

To a certain extent this merging of private security contracting and commercial demining makes sense.  Both activities occur in conflicted regions, rely on similar logistical supply chains and draw on an overlapping pool of personnel — mostly former soldiers.  Mine action, while less profitable, may also provide a more stable and less risky part of a security company’s portfolio.

However, I believe there are some real dangers in smudging the distinction between demining, which has often been viewed as a civilian and humanitarian endeavor, and the militarized industry of private security. If demining becomes associated with a military campaign, it threatens the lives of civilian humanitarian deminers working for NGOs.  Moreover, in my own field research I have found private security companies are far less likely to understand local developmental needs, cultural sensitivies and humanitarian priorities than NGOs and local authorities.

For a good investigation of the impact of private security companies on the civilian population in Afghanistan and Angola, see this paper from Swiss Peace Foundation. For my critique of the role of private security companies’ involvement in Afghan demining, click here.

~ by Matthew Bolton on 5 August 2008.

8 Responses to “Commercial Demining and Security Industries Consolidating, Merging”

  1. The blog “Global Diversified Asset Protection” commented on this posting by saying:

    “Whilst the concerns are clearly valid, the situation need not be so if NGO’s and the PSC community worked out better ways of working together and cooperating in such theatres, rather than one group eyeing the other with suspicion and nervous aprehension.” (See:

    I wrote this response:

    “I think you have a decent point — that there are misunderstandings between the NGO and PSC sectors. However, as someone from the NGO sector, I feel some of the ‘suspicion and nervous apprehension’ is justified. It is based on the reality that the involvement of PSCs in demining (and other reconstruction work) has often made armed factions see other civilian deminers as legitimate targets. (Have a look at my Afghan report for more on this: The ‘suspicion’ is the result of feeling under threat.

    “Moreover, NGOs and PSCs are not the only players involved — you have to remember the local communities they operate in. For instance, in Afghanistan local people often have dim view of PSCs that cannot simply be chalked up to ‘suspicion.’ They have very valid reasons for being nervous, including: the impunity with which contractors operate, the lack of sensitivity to local conditions, the lack of command and control over PSCs and the privileging of the ‘client’s’ security over that of the public good. For more on this see the Swiss Peace Foundation’s report (”

  2. Both of you are correct. I was Navy EOD and during that time I was deployed with SEAL’s, SF, Secret Service, DOE, Italian Carribinieri, etc.

    When I was approached by EODT about going to Talil for IED response, I asked what my primary and secondary would be. Their response was that they provided security for me. I appreciate my brothers in the SOCOM community but the PSD community is sprinkled with people of questionable qualifications at best.

    As CEO of a company that specializes in IED manufacturing, training, etc we have begun to address the needs for security. Hot heads or over zealous attitudes are not allowed in this company. Highly developed inter-personal skills are the key to getting into this company. The other skills we can sharpen.

  3. […] For more on the Group 4 purchase of RONCO and ArmorGroup, and the broader trend toward the consolidation of the commercial demining and security markets, see my earlier post on the issue. […]

  4. Please Note and ammend UXB does not supply armed security in the middle east

  5. we want more information on companies dealing with landmine

  6. […] For further information on the merging of the commercial security and demining markets, see my earli… […]

  7. Hi, my name is Anthony Croucher and i’m having difficulties finding a job demining on the net if possible could you send me some links so is that i may begin my carreer demining.

  8. I needed to present this specific blog post, “Commercial Demining and Security
    Industries Consolidating, Merging Political Minefields” together with my own close friends on twitter.
    Ionly just planned to distribute ur tremendous writing!
    Thx, Arnold

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