Humanitarian demining operations within the Sri Lanka army commenced as early as mid 2002 during the cease fire agreement period, with limited resources. However, the humanitarian demining conducted by the army at this juncture was not according to international humanitarian demining procedures and as such training in the proper procedures was required. In August 2003, the US State Department commenced providing assistance to the Sri Lanka Army through Ronco Consulting Cooperation. The first batch of de-miners were trained in Humanitarian demining at the Sri Lanka School of Military Engineering, Embilipitiya in August 2003, which paved the way for the SLA to commence proper humanitarian demining operations in September 2003 under the guidance of Ronco consulting cooperation. As such, three Mine Action coordinating offices were established in Jaffna, Vavuniya and Minneriya in the East, and manual demining was conducted in the districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Anuradhapura north. The following year, one machine was added to its assets along with 12 demining dogs.
During the 2002 ceasefire period the SLA received many civilian requests to clear their lands. As such, there was a need to establish a humanitarian demining unit within the SLA, to undertake these tasks for resettlement and reconstruction purposes. The establishment of a humanitarian demining unit with national ownership was required, and since the SLA had its own Engineering brigade, with a number of personnel with military demining experience, that knowledge was easily converted to humanitarian demining. This resulted in the Humanitarian Demining Unit being established under the Sri Lanka Army.
Initially in 2003, humanitarian demining in the Vanni commenced with a capacity of 144 deminers, and has today expanded to 1,183 which include de-miners, medics, and dog handlers and flail machine operators. As at end 2011, the HDU is operating in the districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Killinochchi, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa and Ampara. Demining is conducted using all three components of humanitarian demining – manual, mechanical and mine detection dogs.