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This paper presents an analysis, based on existing work in geophysics and nondestructive testing, of the effects of soil electromagnetic properties on the functioning of metal detectors widely used to detect buried landmines. The host soil is modeled as a half-space having real and frequency-independent electrical conductivity but frequency-dependent complex magnetic susceptibility. The analysis technique has been applied to three examples of soil of practical importance, namely, nonconducting soil with frequency-independent susceptibility, nonconducting soil with frequency-dependent susceptibility, and nonmagnetic soil with constant conductivity. Simplifications are made to clearly explain a number of previous field and experimental observations, for example, the greater influence of magnetic properties than of electrical conductivity on the performance of metal detectors. Results also show that soil magnetic properties affect continuous wave and pulsed-induction detectors differently. The effect that electrical conductivity and magnetic susceptibility of the host soil have on the signal produced by a target is investigated by computing the response of a buried small metallic sphere. Computations show that in some cases, which could represent practical landmine detection scenarios, the signal from the soil can dominate that due to the target, making it hard to detect the target. Further, it is shown that magnetic soil can alter a target's spectral response, which implies that, contrary to present practice, object identification techniques should take into account the electromagnetic parameters of the host medium.