New research suggests that defusing and removing landmines is less environmentally friendly than detonating them.

A multi-institutional research team led by Scottish Professor Niamh Nic Daeid from the  University of Dundee  found that exploding landmines and other ordinance in situ can actually help clear contaminants like TNT from the soil. Although this finding seems counter-intuitive, the detonations fracture and disperse the surrounding soil in ways that help expose contaminants to decomposition. This aids the “bioremediation,” or breakdown of pollutants by microbes, by increasing the surface area on which the process occurs.

Soil contamination is a significant problem in conflict zones, on old battlegrounds or firing ranges, and at military facilities or munitions factories. While high levels of TNT or other chemicals in soil are not as immediately threatening as landmine contamination, they can cause significant long-term health problems.

The Halo Trust, one of the most important demining organizations in the world, is also based in Scotland. This study has the potential to change the way Halo conducts demining in the field, although more research is needed to determine if the added contaminants from ordnance detonations are compensated for by the increased rate of bioremediation