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Ukraine is asking companies to invest in an unlikely field: minefields.

As the largest mining country in the world, according to its Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ukraine is trying to develop a business model beyond mining by bringing the profit motive to the fore to speed up the process. which may otherwise last for decades.

Ukrainian officials say about a third of the country’s territory is potentially littered with landmines and unexploded ordnance, posing a serious threat to civilians for years to come. State agencies and foreign charities currently conduct most demining operations, but at the rate the government’s 16 certified demining teams are operating, they say it will take hundreds of years to clear the country.

Therefore, the Ministry of Economic Development of Ukraine is trying to attract private entrepreneurs and encourage innovation. The first test of its commercial sabotage initiative was on Wednesday at a site in central Ukraine, where three companies demonstrated their methods of detecting and destroying mines.

“We need to find different ways to reduce our land,” said Ukraine’s economy minister, Yulia Sveridenko. “Otherwise, demining will take hundreds of years and we need to survive and develop our economy now.”

This measure includes humanitarian decommissioning, or the removal of landmines that persist for years or decades after hostilities end. This is separate from clearing mines during combat – this is done only by the military.

Creating a free market for demining has been a priority of the Ministry of Economy. It plans for private landowners—farmers or local governments—to auction contracts to clear their sites in forested areas or open fields, with varying degrees of difficulty and danger. The ministry now has 69 applications from private companies. When a company is certified, it can bid.

The initiative includes encouraging domestic innovation to produce products for export to other countries struggling with landmines, rather than turning Ukraine’s minefields into testing grounds for established foreign defense industry companies. be used as

“Our goal is not to make money because we want to reduce our country,” said Ryabchenko Ruslan, a designer at Postup Foundation, a group participating in the project. “But once the war is over, we will be able to export our technology” for demining and other specialized applications, such as archaeology.

Proponents of this concept include Howard G. Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett and director of global conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. The younger Mr. Buffett’s charitable foundation supports sabotage efforts in Ukraine.

“It’s really important to create an environment in which people will try to bring their best services and best innovations,” Mr. Buffett said.

credit…Brandon Hoffman for The New York Times
credit…Brandon Hoffman for The New York Times

In addition to saving lives, reducing agricultural land will play a role in reducing global food prices, Mr. Buffett said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Buffett met with the first Ukrainian farmer to participate in the demining auction and observed three companies demonstrating their work, including offering drones designed to detect landmines.

They worked in a dry, unharvested soybean field covered with white and red ribbons and signs with small skulls warning of mine danger, a common sight in Ukraine. Mine removal experts, using traditional methods of careful inspection and walking with metal detectors, have been working for two months in this one field alone, clearing about 120 acres.

The drone detection offering was an industry in which no country would want to excel. Still, it was a sad and hopeful moment at the same time. “You will see that Ukraine leads the world” in such technologies, Mr. Buffett said.

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