BLOWING up landmines hidden in contaminated ground helps the environment, it is claimed.

For decades expert teams have worked to detect, deactivate and dispose of munitions buried below the surface in areas of conflict.

Now forensic scientists claim detonating these instead of removing them could be safer for people and the environment.

The suggestion follows tests that found exploding landmines and other lethal devices can help clear contaminants from the soil.

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at Dundee University, said the “new discovery” could point to “novel” ways to deal with two problems at once.

The findings relate to the presence of TNT in the ground, something often present at conflict zones, bombing sites, military training facilities and manufacturing plants.

Bringing these areas back into use requires both toxic explosives and dangerous devices to be removed.

A team from Dundee and members of the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen worked with scientists from Australia’s ChemCentre and Curtin University to carry out controlled blasts in a range of soils to test what happens to the earth when killer devices go off.

The dirt samples were spiked with TNT and analysed before and after being blown up. The results were compared with soils that had not undergone explosions to check for any difference in chemical levels.

The test found bioremediation, where microbes remove pollutants, was quicker and more effective in the samples used in the blasts.

The results, published in the PLOS One journal, are said to suggest that detonating mines and similar munitions has more benefit to the earth than removing them.

Nic Daeid, who helped author the paper, said: “This new discovery potentially exposes novel remediation methods for explosive contaminated soils where actual detonation of the soil significantly promotes subsequent TNT degradation.”

The paper suggests the make-up of some soils causes them to act as “sinks” for contaminants like TNT, making microbial degradation less effective.

But detonating the soil makes these pores smaller, allowing microbes to tackle more of the TNT more quickly.

Nic Daeid said: “Our research investigates what happens to explosives present in soils following an actual detonation and compares this to the fate of explosives spiked into undetonated soils.

“The effects of detonations on the physical properties of the soils were also examined. When explosions occur, soil is fractured and dispersed in such a way that allows removal of TNT by soil-borne bacteria, resulting in an increased effectiveness in the removal of toxins that may cause adverse environmental effects.

“The detonations caused an increase in soil porosity, which directly related to an increased rate of TNT loss within the detonated soils as the surface area available for bio-degradation to occur increased.”

The findings could impact on the work of organisations like Scotland’s world leading Halo Trust. The Dumfries charity, which won the support of Princess Diana, works with communities to clear their lands of munitions post-conflict.

Last month an area equivalent to 36 football pitches was officially handed back to the people in Sri Lanka after Halo workers removed more than 5300 mines.

As many as 24 families are now due to move in.

The organisation says its methods are “highly effective” and “have a wider impact that goes beyond making land and communities safe” by providing jobs for local people.