The South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications and the Extractives Industries Team at the Satellite Applications Catapult put on a mining sector Spark Session in February to get thinking about how satellites could help solve the social challenges faced by the mining industry today. Social License to Operate (SLO) is, and has been, top of the agenda for the mining industry for years now, but many mining projects rely on traditional methods to tackle the challenges they experience. The workshop aimed to discuss and brainstorm how modern space tech could be the key to a more contemporary solution to some major social and human challenges in the industry.
The two areas that the discussions focused on were local community engagement and illegal/artisanal mining.
After some fantastic talks from technical consultants, John Yates and Emma Hatton, who got everyone up to speed on current satellite capabilities, the group was split into two to brainstorm. In the community engagement break out room, ideas surrounding the idea of extending mining operations satellite internet capabilities to the local community to enable people to access better remote learning and health care facilities. There was conversation about visualisation suites with screens, VR headsets and other tools to help communicate the activities of the mine to the community who may otherwise feel disenfranchised through the use of 3D models and imagery enabled by satellites.
The illegal and artisanal mining group discussed the huge challenge of monitoring large areas of land by expensive, time consuming, traditional, on foot, methods. A solution proposed suggested using satellite imagery to identify the impacts such artisanal and illegal activities can have on the environment against a base line map. Indicators and ‘tell tale signs’ of illegal mining activity could be used to discern where, in large areas, to deploy further investigation of law enforcement using satellite enabled technologies.
These ideas and results have been written up by teams at the catapult into a report which can be