Discover more from Earthbound
How do we measure the IMPACT of mining?
Looking at land, water and society
Hello! Thanks for reading Earthbound. Here, we look at the ways in which earth observation data are being used to understand our environment, society and climate. If you haven’t already, subscribe to read my upcoming posts.
I’m trying something new with this post. I took some of the major points I learned from this paper and put them in a single infographic. What do you think? Should I do this for all future posts?
This week, we look at a review paper that explores how we can use remote sensing data to examine the IMPACT of mining on water, land and society.
The impact of mining is far-reaching and goes way beyond the boundaries of the mine, and even the surrounding environment. It can change the way a community operates, grows and prospers.
After reading this paper, it’s clear that it will take a lot more than earth observation data, or any other environmental dataset, to understand the true impact a mining operation has on our environment and community.
If you want to read the paper in full, you can find it here.
This paper examines the way earth observation data can model the impact of mining in three categories:
Let’s start with water.
Here are some of the water-related impacts that can be measured with earth observation data.
Altering of natural water flows: Tracking the change in direction or flow path of existing water bodies
Depleting groundwater: Pumping water can deplete the amount of groundwater available in nearby communities - this has created numerous “agro-mining” conflicts
Loss of water: Tracking the change in the size of existing water bodies
Reduced water quality: Sediment runoff and dust deposition often reduce water quality. Acid mine drainage can often have extremely negative impacts on stream health and create rust-coloured water
Tailing ponds: tiling ponds exist to contain tailings. The existence of these ponds can be tracked with aerial and multispectral earth observation data
The impact of mining on land is one of the more obvious use cases when thinking about earth observation data. Here are a few case studies provided in the paper.
Land clearing: Extensive land clearing is required when building a mine. The change is land use can be clearly tracked using EO.
Infrastructure Development: The construction of railroads, buildings, and roadways can all be tracked using aerial earth observation data. The challenge is trying to attribute which developments are a result of the mine.
Vegetation: Smelting can result in acid rain, which can destroy vegetation in surrounding areas
Soil Contamination: heavy metals often leach into soils nearby, resulting in extensive soil contamination. The contamination and eventual remediation can be tracked using EO.
Landslides: if one of the structures constructed on-site fail, this could create a landslide in the region
The impact of mining on society and the local economy is perhaps the most difficult to measure using remote sensing data.
The authors aren’t sure whether this is because there are limitations in methodology, perceptions of limitations, or because these limitations actually exist.
Modelling the health impacts of mining is more prevalent than the impact on livelihood or economy.
They provide a few case studies in which remote sensing data are used to model societal impacts.
Using earth observation data to track air and water-based contaminants and their impact on human health
Tracking population density - if a new mine is being developed, this may result in a population influx that changes the fabric of the existing society.
Tracking trends in mine-related conflict using a database of mine locations and an online visual database of “mine-related conflict”
That’s it for this week - thanks for reading Earthbound! I hope you enjoyed it. Conducting the research necessary to provide consistent content for this newsletter requires a lot of time, so please consider becoming a paying subscriber at $5 a month - it would be very much appreciated. Click subscribe to support me while also getting exclusive member benefits.