The Extractive Industries Observatory (OIE) shines a light on the mining industry with satellite data from around the world
Observatorio de Industrias Extractivas, or the Extractive Industries Observatory (OIE) is a research platform dedicated to providing data on mining companies and other extractive industries in Guatemala. Through an interactive mapping platform, the organization provides critical datasets and official information to help generate reports on the stocks of these industries. To shed light on the mining industry, the OIE uses satellite imagery to monitor Guatemalan mines over time. However, the OIE realized that satellite images from other providers were lacking in data, especially on the mines of interest. To fill the gap in their data, the OIE turned to Planet for our high frame rate transparent images.
“Our most important job is to acquire, catalog and publish government data in a centralized and accessible location, so that everyone can access it immediately,” said Ben Chang, researcher and cartographer at the OIE.
It also includes geospatial data to help understand the location and status of extractive projects. As geospatial data requires special software and certain skills to use, the OIE also strives to generate maps and visualizations that can be easily read and shared by anyone, regardless of literacy, technical ability or geographic information system (GIS) skills.
To help support their platform, the OIE began a subscription to Planet’s data services last year, and Planet has been important to the OIE for several reasons, according to OIE’s Ben Chang:
- Affordability – “Planet offers a low barrier to entry, which is very good for the GIS and satellite imagery provider space, especially for high quality. It was something we could afford, and it allowed us to select the many small areas that we were interested in.
- Ease of use – “Planet’s platform is also easier to use than other platforms. To put it simply, you are appealing to a clientele that is more of an everyday user.
- Speed and reliability – “It is extremely important for us to have reliably dated high-frequency raster images. Planet is trustworthy and open about the provenance and stewardship of its imagery, which means we can trust 100% what we see in its satellite imagery. »
- Transparency – “Planet provides transparent data. Looking at other data sources, I came across areas where data was missing in high quality satellite images where major mining projects were located. We think the whole point of leveraging satellite data is to be able to see what these companies are doing. Thanks to Planet, we have access to high-quality images that others may not have, allowing us to keep tabs on what these companies are doing.
As such, Planet data has played a crucial role in a number of unique OIE projects.
Using our high-speed satellite images, the OIE used historical data and government records to gather information about a local mine that had sparked controversy over its environmental impact near Lake Izabal. The OIE has observed that the latest designated area of the mine includes new territory, and Chang suggests that this designation could open the area up to further negative environmental impact.
“It is important to note that this mine is not visible on some other satellite imagery platforms,” Chang said, stressing the need for data transparency. “It is very important to us that Planet does not have this limitation.”
And for another mine, the OIE used Planet’s imagery to identify if a project was operating outside its concession by overlaying government-provided shapefiles depicting the shape of the area over Planet’s high-quality rasters. . Beyond researching the spatial boundaries around mines, the OIE has also used our high-speed data to assess whether mining projects have complied with the time periods and physical boundaries within which they can legally operate according to the government. Guatemalan.
These types of information allow the OIE to share essential information to hold government and the extractive industry accountable. With Planet as a daily tool, the OIE can leverage QGIS and R for all the mapping and GIS analysis work they do. “It has become normal for us to keep streaming connections open to Planet Basemaps for daily use. Access to Planet images takes all the guesswork out of what we are looking at and gives us the flexibility to go back to any relevant dates Chang said, “It’s really cool to be able to read government documentation for a certain project and see a date, and think ‘Hey! I have a time machine! I can check [that].’”
Additionally, the OIE is able to leverage Planet’s archive to visit images from the last decade. “It also allows us to make quick and rough comparisons to see what kind of environmental damage has been done. The fact that we can stream Planet data directly into QGIS also means that comparisons between basemaps and ministry data are immediate and consistent.High quality also means that we can load different basemaps and make visual comparisons of changes over time to decide whether or not there is more to examine with a project.
The OIE devotes its time and resources to freely providing this information to local communities who are affected by mining operations and who bear a disproportionate burden from the environmental damage that mining operations can cause. As computer access is difficult to obtain in the region, the OIE also creates physical versions of the maps and data they collect, making this data accessible to local communities. The OIE believes that a community should have the right to have an overview before deciding whether or not to allow mining in their territory.
In response to climate change and the demand for a global energy transition, governments and industries have started turning to the mining of “green” minerals, including lithium, nickel and copper. These minerals are increasingly in demand as they are used to manufacture clean energy technologies. However, the OIE wants to ensure that such a request does not lead to ecological degradation and threats to human rights and well-being along the way.
“The future of the world is going to demand green transition metals and we know that means the pressure on these communities will increase over time, and give local communities free and open access to the maps and information they need. to face this pressure on an equal footing is our main goal,” Chang said.
Each week, the OIE shares information on important developments in the mining industry in Guatemala from its Twitter account @goie_gt. By providing the OIE with transparent satellite images, we strive to help them shine a light on extractive industry activity and promote industry accountability. We are proud to work with the OIE as they support human rights and environmental protection throughout Guatemala.