A SCOTTISH charity says it has reached a significant milestone after clearing its 200,000th landmine from a former worn-torn part of Sri Lanka.

Work by the Halo Trust to make land that was once a battleground safe again has helped more than 150,000 people return home and resume their lives after years of displacement.

The area, in the north of the island country, was once the site of bitter battles between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebel group during the 26-year armed conflict, with both sides liberally littering the countryside with the deadly devices.

It is now hoped that Sri Lanka can be declared effectively land mine free by 2020 as the charity continues to play a major role in clearing mines from effected areas.

The Halo Trust, which is based in Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, has taken a lead role in the lengthy operation.

Damian O'Brien, Halo's Sri Lanka programme manager, said his teams were still clearing mines from people's back gardens.

He said: "Since 2002 we have cleared 200,000 mines working with other agencies, but the Halo Trust is the largest operating in Sri Lanka.

"Huge numbers of people have been resettled and have returned to economic activity, but we do not know how many mines are left because we do not know how many were laid in the first place.

"Reaching this point is a major landmark but there is still a lot of work to do."

The minefields cleared by the Halo Trust are found in Jaffna province, which was once part of the front line between the government and the rebels.

The charity uses armoured bulldozers to dig up the devices and make the land safe, and sends out teams equipped with metal detectors to areas where heavy machinery can't operate.

The Halo Trust employs 500 Sri Lankans, almost half of them women are women. Many were left widowed by the conflict and are now sole breadwinners for multiple dependents.

The number of mines cleared by the charity represents 14 per cent of total number it has removed worldwide since 1988, and the operation to rid Sri Lanka of the anti-personnel bombs is the third largest in world, after Afghanistan and Cambodia.

Major General James Cowan, CEO of Halo said: "I have witnessed the transformational benefits of landmine clearance in northern Sri Lanka for myself and can attest to the positive impact that removing the deadly debris of war has had on people’s lives.

"After years of conflict and uncertainty, Sri Lankans are finally able to rebuild their lives in safety."

The Halo Trust is the oldest landmine clearing charity and was supported by celebrities such as Princess Diana and Angelina Jolie, who served as a trustee

However, the actress stepped down last year amid reports she was “uncomfortable” with two trustees effectively being paid more than £120,000 to conduct a governance review.