On December 6, Ambassador John R. Bass will mark the completion of mine clearance in Tusheti Protected Areas at the Ministry of Environment. Ambassador Bass will be joined by Mr. Giorgia Shonvadze and Ms. Tamar Pataridze of the Agency of Protected Areas, Mr. Anzor Gogotidze of Tusheti Protected Areas, and Tom Meredith of HALO Trust to mark the completion of HALO's mine clearance in Tusheti and handover of mapping material. In the summer of 2011, with approximately $100,000 in support from the U.S. Department of State, HALO cleared a large minefield in Tusheti Protected Areas close to Georgia's northern border with Russia. Anti-Personnel (AP) mines were scattered there from the air in 1999, creating widespread risks within the village of Zemo Omalo, and the surrounding land. Tusheti Protected Areas is only accessible during the summer, and HALO worked hard to clear over 50 hectares of contaminated land from June to September 2011. While conducting manual mine clearance with metal detectors, HALO teams found and safely destroyed eight PFM-1 AP mines. Many of the scattered mines landed on steep ground close to inhabited or grazing areas. HALO used mountaineering equipment and belaying techniques to ensure the safety of operational staff when working on, or close to steep terrain.
During clearance, bronze and iron arrow heads, brooches and other archaeological artifacts were also discovered through the use of metal detectors, all of which were carefully recorded and handed over to the Georgian Agency for Protected Areas.
Tusheti Protected Areas is a place of great cultural and historic importance to Georgia, as well as an area of outstanding beauty. In 2011, over 9,000 visitors came to Tusheti, many of whom walked to the Keselo towers and Zemo Omalo village, land cleared by HALO.