Gatwick company on running mine clearance in Falklands

Fenix Insight, based in Copthorne, has been overseeing the clearance of the minefields in the Falkland Islands since 2009.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 10:40 am

Colin King, technical director of the business, first visited the Falklands in 1984 as a young army captain on his first operational command overseas.

“It was quite a responsibility,” he said. “But I had a good team and the work was always interesting. Despite the intensive bomb disposal training, overseas operations are always a steep learning curve. After 35 years, dozens of countries and thousands of weapons, I’m still learning.”

Fenix was formed in January 2011 after the start of the Falklands clearance contract.


He said: “It was formed from a combination of my bomb disposal company and a similar company based in London. We got together largely to bring together my technical knowledge of weapons with the quality management skillset of the co-director (David Hewitson).”

Fenix’s role in the Falklands was there to ensure that every aspect of the clearance operation was completed properly, to ensure that the people and government of the Falkland Islands could have complete confidence when walking through previously contaminated areas. No minefield area was signed off as clear until we were fully satisfied that this was the case.

Colin’s role was to recover, disassemble, analyse and test live mines to assess their condition, train the deminers and assess the long-term risk.

He said: “This was undertaken in a number of short deployments, taking many of the specialist tools with me and mostly working in workshops, improvised from Iso containers.

“On my most recent trip, the youngest member of the Fenix team, 21-year-old Max Grace from Copthorne, worked with me to disassemble and test the mines.”

Over the last ten years contractors have cleared more than 10,000 mines, Colin has disassembled and tested somewhere in the region of 200 both in the Falklands, and hundreds more in other countries over the same period.

Colin said: “Mine clearance in the Falklands is now finished, but clearance organisations are still working to clear mines in many other countries.

“Fenix is currently involved with the disassembly and destruction of mines, cluster bombs, IEDs and other weapons in several countries, including Botswana, Cambodia, Colombia, Mozambique, Peru and Vietnam.”

He added: “There are recent international bans on landmines and cluster munitions (multiple small bomblets dispensed from larger rockets, bombs and shells).

“The legislation helps limit their use (among the countries that sign up), but it doesn’t remove them from the ground.

“Millions of tons of weapons dating from the Cold War era still litter countries around the world, killing and injuring the people who encounter them, and providing terrorist groups with ammunition to make their own bombs (‘IEDs’).

“Fenix is constantly engaged in the battle to destroy these munitions before they impact local communities.”

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