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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Earth Observations for Managing Mineral Resources

Activity ID: 89


The exploitation of mineral resources, including non-renewable energy resources, has played a significant role in the development of many countries all over the world. The industry has been, and continues to be an important contributor to both national and regional economies and is critical to national defense. Mining, and the industries it supports, is among the basin building blocks of a modern society.

The benefit of exploitation to those countries has been many, but has come at a cost to the environment. Early mining operations have left a historical legacy of negative environmental impacts that affect our perception of mining. As countries have matured, there has been increasing recognition that environmental protection is as fundamental to a healthy economy and society as is development. The challenge is to simultaneously promote both economic growth and environmental protection.

Social impacts of mineral resource exploitation are complex and controversial. It can generate wealth, while triggering significant disruptions. A project can generate employment, transport infrastructure, education facilities and increase goods and services availability in remote poor areas; however these benefits might be unequally shared. Social tensions and conflict, sometimes riots, can rise from affected communities.

Illegal and uncontrolled mining activities can generate environmental disasters, societal disasters including human trafficking, and conflicts, including armed, along with significant economic losses for the affected countries. It can also imperil the live of workers due to the lack of security precautions. A regularly updated monitoring is essential for those countries.

Recent initiatives for more responsible and sustainable practices in mineral resources exploitation reflect a trend in better addressing the societal acceptability issues of mining. This include international (e.g. European Industrial Partnership on Raw Materials EIP-RM) and national mineral policy strategies, responsible mining initiatives by exploiting companies, green mining initiatives, Social License to Operate (SLO) approaches, etc.

Global maps of soil mineral composition at Earth’s surface made available to a wide user community may benefit not only to raw material activities, but to all human activities relying on this information.

Earth Observation (EO), possibly including dedicated citizen observatories, offers a unique opportunity and varieties of methods and tools to collect and process spatial information to monitor and assess each phase of the mining cycle, from exploration to exploitation and closure. It can contribute to help improving raw material policy and better exploiting mineral resources from the territory of mineral supplying countries, as well as to demonstrate how to improve their capacity in implementing new exploitation sites for the benefit of the society.

EO has proven valuable contribution in delivering objective, reliable, affordable, undisputable, opposable and mutually trusted information and documentation at site level, hence fostering a better dialogue between the relevant stakeholders, from national to local levels (SB-05-C2, EU FP7 projects EO-MINERS and ImpactMin).

Non-renewable energy resources (fossil fuels) and critical metals for e.g. solar panels and windmills typically fall into the energy value chain and are hence relevant to the Energy CoP. 

Mineral resources however lack dedicated EO system or program and currently use EO systems and programs from other SBAs. Global coverage by high-spectral resolution sensors in particular is currently not available.

Activities for the period

Overarching activities of the EO data and mineral resources will include:

  1. Develop tools and Information for the Resource Assessment, Monitoring and Forecasting of Geological Resources (including mineral and fossil resources, raw material and groundwater);
  2. Develop tools for impact monitoring of mining operations;
  3. Identify and foster implementation of strategic measures for the competitive, reliable and sustainable management of geo-resources exploitation and treatment of re-usable materials.

These activities could consist in:

  • A preparatory work for global mineral mapping program using existing (ASTER) or future [GC1]  missions, on the model of the Australian Mineral Map performed by CSIRO using ASTER imagery, to be delivered to the GEO data archive;
  • Developing a global spectral library of soils for future of quantitative soil spectroscopy from laboratory to space-borne applications, towards the definition of possible product standards for global, public hyperspectral satellite soil surface composition mapping;
  • The definition, or refinement, of a set of area-specific essential variables to be validated by the CoP and GEO in view of measuring and monitoring the status of mineral resources assessment and exploitation;
  • The definition of methodologies and tools to map these essential variables from existing and future sensors, including citizen observatories;
  • A global mining waste inventory program by adapting e.g. the PECOMINES project methodology to currently available sensors (Landsat TM, Sentinel -2) and/or future missions also connected with point 3.

Activities would also include:

  • Contacts with CEOS and space agencies for the design of future high spectral resolution missions in support of the above objectives;
  • Further development of integrated EO-based products to meet stakeholder requirements and engagement at regional (mining basin) to site levels;
  • Foster their use in responsible mining initiatives, both at governments and company levels;
  • Develop methodologies and tools for illegal mining activities monitoring;
  • Develop methodologies for mapping secondary resources from identified mining wastes.

Future plans

Development of close interactions with other GEO societal issues will be part of the community activities e.g. cold regions (increasing activity in mineral resources exploration and exploitation in these regions), global observing system for mercury (GMOS in connection with illegal mining), forests (GFOI in connection with illegal mining) and water (impact of mineral resource exploitation on water quality and resources).

Strengthening links with GI-10 and GI-18


All contributions are in-kind from participating partners. There is currently no specific resource (funded projects) available for this Community Activity.



Members: Australia, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, UK, USA.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Stéphane Chevrel