When Kiyoshi Amemiya first saw the gruesome effects of landmines while on a business trip to Cambodia in 1994 he was, like most visitors to the killing fields before him, deeply shocked.
The successful businessman returned to Japan but the images of mine victims with mutilated limbs were seared indelibly onto his brain. So he resolved to do something.
Ameniya, now 57, had no experience of weaponry or warfare. All he did have was the resources of the company he runs, which distributes construction machinery made by a subsidiary of industrial giant Hitachi in central Japan.
Ten years on, he is the inventor of the country's first anti-personnel landmine-disposal machine, and is helping clear the deadly invisible enemy from Afghanistan to Nicaragua.
"It was just too shocking," he says in an interview at his company offices, thinking back to his experience in Cambodia, one of the world's most heavily mined countries.
"I saw women and children with missing arms and legs and many had severe facial burns. Although I knew nothing about landmines then, I was determined to do something about it," he said.
In 1995, Amemiya, president of Yamanashi Hitachi Construction Machinery, set up a six-member project team within the company to begin the development of a mine-clearing machine.
What they came up with was, essentially, a converted mechanical digger. Amemiya said he made the mine clearer by adapting Hitachi Construction's hydraulic excavator, putting a drum bristling with blades in place of the bucket on the hydraulic arm and strengthening the cab against blasts.
"The most difficult part was creating steel `teeth' that could resist the 1,000-degree heat from a mine explosion. It took us four to five years to make the strong cutters," he said.
The team attached 40 such digging blades around a steel drum and fitted it to the hydraulic arm. By lowering the arm to the ground in front of the vehicle rotating the drum, the machine sets off anti-personnel mines and can withstand up to 10,000 explosions.
"It is 100 times faster than removing landmines by hand," he said, adding it cost the company ?100 million (US$943,000) to develop the machine.
Amemiya has donated a total of 36 machines to Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Thailand and Vietnam through the UN and local non-governmental organizations, paid for with profits from the company's commercial operations.
"In Cambodia and Vietnam, mined areas are often covered in dense trees and bushes, but our blades can cut them before disposing of the landmines," he said.
"For Afghanistan, we made the blades strong enough to resist sand and rocks while in Nicaragua we had to adjust the blades so that they could work in mud," he said.
The machine has a one-man cab, protected by special tempered glass but it can also be operated by remote control.
After the mine explodes, the metal fragments are collected with a magnet and the machine can also plow the ground and even sprinkle fertilizer.
The mine clearer's reputation for doing its vital task well eventually reached the Indian Defense Ministry, which asked Amemiya to sell it, while the US Defense Department inquired about it.
But Amemiya rejected both offers.
"I have no business with the military," he said.
Last December, Amemiya developed an upgraded machine capable of clearing anti-tank landmines, with government help worth ?56 million for the first time.
The new machine, which also features a mine detector, has a pivot with 42 chains attached. Each chain ends in a 2kg steel cube. Once the pivot rolls, the chains and the cubes flail the ground, blowing up anti-tank mines.
The company is to ship the new machine to Afghanistan at the end of this month and Amemiya is scheduled to visit the country in June to instruct Afghan mine clearers in using it.
An estimated 5 million to 7 million mines are scattered throughout Afghanistan, according to the UN -- while an estimated 110 million landmines are strewn in more than 70 countries, killing and maiming 20,000 each year.
Amemiya said his next goal was to create a machine that clears unexploded ordnance.
"Clearing unexploded ordnance is extremely difficult and dangerous for local mine clearers. But I'm already working on it and I am tenacious. I will not give up on clearing landmines from the world," he said.
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