Posted by Sponsored Post Posted on 1 December 2022

Geospatial Technology Catering to Sustainable Mining

The extraction of minerals and fuels, their transportation, processing and use bring undoubted benefits to people. At the same time, they have serious environmental consequences. Moreover, according to industry experts, everything starts as soon as the site is prepared for mining operations. During exploration, the forests are cut down, animals and birds leave their habitats, and the untouched nature is periodically polluted with harmful gasses. During the exploitation of the deposits the problems increase, as there is more complex equipment, and there is also the possibility of an oil blowout, sludge pit breakdown and other emergencies.


The impact of mining on the environment has always been negative due to the pollution of natural resources. Of the extracted raw materials only a small part is used for business purposes, the rest is turned into waste, causing irreparable damage to the environment. During the processing of iron ores harmful gasses are emitted, which, if released into the atmosphere, cause a greenhouse effect and acid precipitation. The atmospheric air is particularly polluted in areas specializing in ferrous metals.


The mitigation of all these negative effects of mining on the environment starts with monitoring and management of mining activities. Luckily, it becomes easier with the help of modern innovations, geospatial technology in particular.

Most Harmful Effects of Mining on the Environment

All resource extraction methods involve excavating raw materials from the earth’s surface. This causes cavities to form in the crust and disrupts its integrity. When mines or quarries are built for the open-pit method of resource extraction, the land is often alienated for many years. This leads to anthropogenic landforms on the territories in the mining area — collapses, landslides, etc. During the construction of quarries the layer of chernozem is removed and dumped into the dumps. Thus, the soil becomes unsuitable for economic use.


Another negative consequence of mining is the contamination of agricultural areas. This occurs more often in the process of transportation of minerals. Dust spreads over large areas and is deposited in soils and plants. Such emissions are especially high during mining. As a result, technogenic anomalies are formed, where the content of iron and zinc in the soil exceeds the norm severely.


One of the results of mining is the depletion and drainage of water bodies and their pollution. At the deposits of rock salt, halite wastes are formed — a by-product of potassium chloride production. With precipitation they get into reservoirs, which are used to supply drinking water to nearby settlements.


The main method of combating these issues is their prevention. Therefore, constant environmental monitoring has to be carried out at the mining sites. And that is where technology comes into play.

Geospatial Technologies to the Rescue


Remote sensing with the help of satellites is one of the biggest examples of geospatial technology applications in mining. So, what could connect a “terrestrial” industry like mining and satellites in space? The answer is tons of data. From a logical point of view, mining and the satellite industry fit together perfectly. Mines are often located in remote and isolated areas, and connectivity to basic terrestrial communications for information transfer and monitoring is limited or non-existent in many cases. Companies have typically used aerial photography and geophysical surveys for exploration, and ground and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys for reserve control and tailings monitoring.


By its very nature, the mining industry depends on geologic and positional data, becoming perhaps the most spatially aware of all industries and the primary target of the applications of geospatial technology. The development of geographic information systems (GIS) that has occurred in recent years is widely reflected throughout the industry, and the greatest advantage of these systems is to increase the value of the discoveries made.


The ability of GIS to collect, accumulate, store, and access complex data sets, coupled with the increasing capabilities of geographic information mapping and advanced software, can grow into a modern, multi-layered image transmission system that works quickly and with astonishing accuracy. The use of GIS in conjunction with satellite imagery is becoming key in predicting the mineral potential of remote and inaccessible deposits that are increasingly being targeted by the mining market.


In this case, the serious nature of cooperation becomes quite natural and logical: using sensitive, complex-component light spectra, satellites are able to verify hidden topographic features indetectable to the human eye.


Satellites can change the way miners and other remote industries operate, from exploration and extraction to the sale of products to the end consumer. Mining companies can gain real-time control over all stages of their supply chain. This can increase operational efficiency, simplify the reporting process, and increase social and environmental responsibility: in particular, through early alerts of safety violations and environmental incidents.

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