Rio Tinto shows interest in satellite start-up


Rio Tinto has formed an early adoption partnership with space data company Pixxel, to support the development of an imaging satellite with numerous benefits for mining.

Pixxel will launch the first images from its high-resolution hyperspectral satellite early this year, after which time Rio Tinto will decide on the longevity of the partnership.

Pixxel co-founder and chief executive officer Awais Ahmed said this major endorsement was a great sign for the emerging company.

“This partnership will be pioneering in its deployment of hyperspectral satellite imagery for commercial mining operations,” Ahmed said.

“We’re excited to be partnering with Rio Tinto to explore the use of hyperspectral remote sensing technology across their operations at a global scale.”

Hyperspectral imaging is a technique used to analyse wider spectrums of light than simple primary colours (red, blue, green).

These spectrums can be used to identify various objects and materials – a key factor in mineral exploration.

If proven effective and successful, Pixxel’s satellite could also be used by Rio Tinto to monitor both open and closed mine sites, as well as tracking environmental indicators such as pollution.

“The exponential leap in image quality (50 time more detail than existing multispectral satellite imagery) allows Rio Tinto the ability to assess Pixxel’s imagery for monitoring critical mining operations and make key decisions with sustainability in mind,” Ahmed added.

Rio Tinto head of exploration Dave Andrews explained the partnership in simple terms.

“Rio Tinto is participating in Pixxel’s Early Adopter Program because we believe that exploration could benefit from more cost-effective and easier access to hyperspectral satellite data,” he said.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.