Rising levels of illegal mining in India is seeing the government implement space technologies in an effort combat the issue. Each state was also asked to gather information on past illegal mining activities and methods used to check them.
According to the Economic Times, Balvinder Kumar, India’s mines secretary, said mapping of mines by satellite will begin with major metals such as gold and iron ore, gradually expanding to include sand and limestone – where the problem is more prevalent.
In September 2015 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the use of space technology to prevent illegal mining activities.
“Once fully implemented, the move will bring about transformation in the Indian mining industry. We have identified large chunks of illegal mining in many areas,” Kumar said.
“It is rampant in case of minor minerals like limestone and sand in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Haryana. We will ask states to quantify losses due to illegal mine activities and explain their position to us.”
Kumar said that satellite mapping will be used over approximately 4000 mines focusing on metals like copper, bauxite, nickel, zinc, and manganese over the next three months. With this method, GPS enabled mining plans will be overlaid with digitised revenue maps of each mine collecting satellite images of the blocks each month and their changes, allowing for the pinpointing of any illegal activities within 500 meters of the mines’ boundary.
Kumar said that satellite mapping will be used over approximately 4000 mines focusing on metals like copper, bauxite, nickel, zinc, and manganese over the next three months.
The satellite monitoring techniques will be headed by the Indian Bureau of Mines which supports the scientific development of mineral resources. The bureau will have a control room to monitor the mines on a regular basis. The use of satellites has only been used to detect the presence of minerals so far.
Almost a fifth of all mining production in Goa is from illegal mines. In 2011 and 2012, widespread illegal mining in Goa and Karnataka caused the Supreme Court to issue mining bans. While officials who allow illegal mining in Goa will face hanging, after mines were allegedly found to be operating without compulsory permissions; officials of the mines reportedly ignored the illegal mining activities taking place.
State and central governments have also been concerned by the rate of sand mining in Uttar Pradesh.
Pilot monitoring projects began at 400 mines in the state of Gujarat, four months ago, by the mines ministry in conjunction with the Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics. This has since expanded into other states.
Peru will also be using space technology to combat illegal mining, by utilising the French built Astrosat-300 for nationwide surveillance. Set to be launched this year, the technology will also be used to identify illegal fishing and monitor areas impacted by natural disasters.