Remote Sensing Used to Unlock Africa’s Hidden Potential

(written by Intro to GIS student, J.J., who’s provided a review of the use of remote sensing for mineral exploration.)

As easily accessible resources are being used up, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find new caches, even in resource-rich continents such as Africa. Cameroon has realized an advantage by using new satellite technology to catalogue its riches, while decreasing its exploration costs. As more foreign capital is invested in Africa – a record $38.8 billion in 2006 – the need to find blocks of previously undiscovered stores is becoming more urgent. Streaming data from 500 miles above the Earth’s surface, satellites use the STeP™ data processing technique (designed by Terra Energy & Resource Technologies, Inc.) to identify potential resource sites. Not only will this reduce the time needed to find, survey and extract resources at sites, but it will also allow the country to properly build infrastructure and allocate resources in a way that will also protect the economic and environmental future of Cameroon.

Satellite imagery has been used since the 1960’s to provide images of the Earth’s surface. In 1972 the United States launched the Landsat program to collect “spectral information from the Earth’s surface.” This has led to the creation of detailed archives that catalogue our interactions with the environment on a global scale, such as urban development and land use. Various other satellite imaging programs have sprung up since then, most notably in Europe with the ERS and Envisat systems. Satellite technology has come a long way, and newer industrial applications include geosensing (as in the case of Cameroon), agriculture, which can help in crop assessment, as well as environmental and meteorological change assessment, and real estate, where developers can use imagery to minimize construction costs and environmental impact.

STePâ„¢, has already seen success as a method for finding previously hidden resources. In 2002 it found a river in the west Saharan Desert 800 feet underground that today provides water to 50,000 citizens of Mauritania.

I believe that the practice of cataloguing a country’s resources will prove to be indispensable to every country in the coming decades. As preservation efforts increase in momentum, and calls for conservation of already used resources become louder, a complete roadmap for resources will aid in policy-making. With the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol coming a close in 2012 and the goals largely not have being met, we may find ourselves dramatically changing our resource consumption practices and an accurate schematic of global deposits may help with resource allocation.

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