Placements for academic researchers in industry, companies and public authorities to facilitate the technological transfer of Copernicus skills to end-users.

Development of showcase examples, tools and courses for promoting Copernicus data

This placement project is carried out under the auspices of [Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Sweden] and hosted by the consulting company [HeadMining]. The objective is to develop course material on the use of Copernicus remote sensing data for mineral exploration. The potential of Copernicus data is exemplified by case studies which are integrated in the course material.

Researcher: Dr.Mehdi Abdolmaleki
Supervisor: Prof.Thorkild Maack Rasmussen
Research Centre: Luleå University of Technology
Placement Host: HeadMining consulting company
Host Contact: Johan Hedlin
Partner: Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

Project status: ongoing (2020-present)

Project summary:

Satellite-based remote sensing techniques have been available and getting updated for more than four decades, but the technical skills and knowledge within industry and geosciences for mineral exploration using these techniques are still far from being optimum. The teaching of remote sensing techniques is not provided at many educational institutions. Lack of in-depth knowledge of basic principles used in remote sensing data among both newly educated students and within companies is noticed. This project addresses some of the issues for the above problems with the goal of promoting Copernicus data in geological applications. Development of course material using showcase examples for mineral exploration is in focus for this project proposal.

Although this application and a previous project on IOCG mineralization are focusing on data from Greenland, we emphasize that the lessons learned and the technical developments may serve as a base for further developments in the use of combined remote sensing and airborne/ground-based data. The developed techniques can also be used in other countries and other parts of Greenland. Greenland offers very good geological conditions with respect to ground truthing and has in addition excellent geological potential for securing the supply of critical raw materials as described in the report to the European Commission “Study on EU Needs with Regard to Cooperation with Greenland – Final Report; Contract No 30-CE-0604902/00-84 – SI2.666954”. By providing results from the selected areas with diversity in geological setting, we expect to be able to demonstrate the applicability of remote sensing data and thereby contribute to highlighting the useful information contained in these data.

Mineral exploration in Greenland is in general very challenging due to logistical issues related to transportation, energy supply at remote locations, the large areal extent and weather conditions. The Copernicus data may make exploration more efficient by identifying areas of particular interest and higher prospectivity.

We recognize that many employees in exploration companies have no or very limited training in and understanding of the most recent development on data processing and data integration. We consider that proper introduction to these new developments is a very important step for the European exploration industry in order to be in the forefront with respect to new developments.

A possible impact is the discovery of mineral deposits in the case study area. Similarly, the development of new data processing techniques which are sufficiently versatile to be applicable to other areas may also lead to new discoveries and thereby securing the supply of raw materials.

Project Objectives:

  • Facilitate and improve the use of Copernicus remote sensing data within both a short and long-time perspective by providing showcase mineral exploration and geological mapping examples for inclusion in the developed course material and by establishing guidelines for data processing, data integration and interpretation.
  • Show that results can be obtained within a reasonable short time frame provided that the right tools are selected and that basic knowledge of remote sensing is in place.
  • Ensure that procedures for extracting and utilization of information from remote sensing data are developed and utilized jointly with other geoscientific data. The fact that optical remote sensing data have no depth penetration furthermore emphasises the importance of performing joint interpretation with data that explicitly provide information at depth, i.e. geophysical exploration data.
  • The delivery of cost-effective, timely and comprehensive solutions for mineral exploration is considered a key driver for this project. The promotion of Copernicus data that can be linked to HeadMining consulting activities is an important step with respect to ensuring that awareness of cost- effective solutions is transferred via ‘Lifelong Learning’ to the exploration and mining industry.

InTarsis II, using Sentinel-1 to improve mining monitoring capacities in Andalucia, Spain

The project is hosted and carried out under the auspices of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and hosted by Aminer, a consortium of 22 companies of the mining sector in Andalucia. It aims to develop the InTarsis monitoring tool to and end-user level

Researcher: Dr. Ignacio Marzan
Supervisor: Dr. Martin Schimmel
Research Centre: Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Placement Host: Aminer
Host contact: Priscila Moreno

Project status: ongoing (2020-present)

Project summary:

The new energetic model and the increasingly technology-based economy require more and more mineral resources. At the same time, environmental awareness is growing and to guarantee its viability the mining industry cannot continue to be seen as a destructive force. Our project aims to contribute to a safe and sustainable supply of mineral resources by reducing mining-related hazards by means of improving monitor capacity of mining stakeholders.

Mining activities, earthworks, digging and pumping affect ground mechanical integrity and may cause subsidence, landslides and collapses; disasters that often have serious consequences, economically, environmentally and in terms of human life. Monitoring systems are implemented to improve safety and reduce risks and mitigation costs. Despite Sentinel-1 being a powerful and cost-effective tool for monitoring ground stability, it is not commonly used due to the complexity of its implementation. Our objective is to normalize its use like other stability monitoring tools already adopted by mining stakeholders. In our previous RawMatCop project we devised InTarsis, a monitoring tool designed to automate the acquisition and processing of SAR data (Sentinel-1). In this new project, we aim to reduce the gap between the complexity of Sentinel-1 products and mining stakeholders by upscaling InTarsis to an end-user level. Our host partner for this project is Aminer, a group of 22 members working in the mining sector of Andalucia, Spain. The collaboration with Aminer is a key element of the project. They will be trained in the use of Copernicus data, but they will also contribute to the upscaling of InTarsis: providing four mining targets to test InTarsis and participating in the acceptance testing process. Aminer partners may be future InTarsis end users and their feedback is essential to assess its business potential.

Project Objectives:

Overall aim: to reduce mining activity impact by improving ground stability monitoring capacity of mining stakeholders working in Andalucia, Spain, using Copernicus data (Sentinel-1).

Specific objectives:

  • To train Aminer group partners on the potential of Copernicus data to anticipate disasters related to mining activities (Aminer is our Host Partner, it is composed by 22 organization of the mining sector in Andalucia).
  • To make complex Sentinel-1 dataset available for mining stakeholders by means of training the Aminer group on our monitoring tool, InTarsis.
  • To upscale InTarsis to an end-user level product.
  • To evaluate the stability of 4 mining targets considered of special interest for the Aminer partners using InTarsis.
  • To design monitoring solutions for the mining targets showing stability issues.

Geospatial mining transparency through Copernicus and MapX

This placement project is carried out under the auspices of the Minerals Engineering, Materials & Environment (GeMMe), University of Liège and in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNEP/GRID Geneva. It aims at making full use of Copernicus Sentinel-2 data and its integration in Map-X to provide information for the monitoring of mining activities that constitute the upstream part of the raw material value-chain.

Researcher: Dr. Elsy Ibrahim
Supervisor: Prof. Eric Pirard
Research Centre: University of Liège
In Collaboration with: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (Geneva and Colombia offices) and UNEP/GRID-Geneva

Project status: completed (2018-2019)

Project summary:

While raw materials are essential for human development, the mining sector faces major social and environmental challenges. Collaboration between Copernicus and MapX, an impartial platform developed by UN Environment and GRID-Geneva, can provide a model for sharing and integrating information for informed analyses and decision-making and a better understanding by the public of the status of mining sites and of the whole industry. Thus, CopX contributes to the “social license to operate” for mining activities. The special collaboration in CopX aims at the bridging of industry and agencies, research, and education, which EIT RawMaterials sees as an enabler for “a sustainable, efficient and successful mining industry”. The case study considered for this work is alluvial gold mining in Colombia.

Small-scale and artisanal mining provide livelihood exceeding those provided by industrial mining worldwide. In Colombia, they provide about 80% of the country’s gold. Unfortunately, they are mostly in poor rural areas with relatively low monitoring or regulation and have been at the heart of major armed conflicts. Alluvial or placer mining is the mining of secondary gold deposits, i.e. gold particles that concentrate in water channels. Placer land mining is mostly informal and uses machinery creating large footprints of bare soil and ponds. They cause major negative environmental, health, and social impacts.

Earth Observation through the use of satellite data can greatly contribute to locating, mapping, and analyzing small-scale mining activities. CopX presents the story of free data of Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites used to understand the dynamics in placer mining activities in the municipalities of El Bagre and Zaragoza that are major gold producers and mapping mining sites in the department of Antioquia.

Project Objectives:

  • To integrate geospatial information obtained from Sentinel-2 with data from other source into the MapX platform, aiming to halt the typical data fragmentation problem.
  • To implement a case study that fully integrates mining-related information achieved through Copernicus data and analysis and data from other. When incorporated into MapX, this is to generate actionable insights from geospatial data to help stakeholders understand benefits and risks, enhance environmental transparency, manage expectations, and make sound decisions.

Sentinel-2 image of El Bagre, Colombia

Project results/findings:

  • A better understanding of the priorities of different stakeholders in Colombia.
  • Image processing and machine learning (classification, post-classification processing, temporal analysis).
  • Mapping and statistical analysis of results submitted to stakeholders
  • Integrating results for stakeholders in MapX
  • Creating story maps in MapX

A ground monitoring system combining Sentinel-1 and seismics

This placement project is carried out under the auspices of the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA) and the Institute of Geosciences (IGEO), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Atalaya Mining. It aims to push further the synergies created in a previous RawMatCop research project.

Researcher: Dr. Ignacio Marzan
Supervisor: Dr. Martin Schimmel
Research Centre: Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Placement Host: Atalaya Mining
Host contact: Angelo Farci

Project status: completed (2018-2019)

Project summary:

Ground deformation is one of the most important hazards related to mining activities. Earthworks, digging and pumping change soil mechanical properties and can cause landslides, subsidence or runoff drifting. These disasters can have serious consequences, economically, environmentally and in terms of human life. Environmental awareness is growing, but at the same time the mining of critical raw materials (CRM) is mandatory in an increasingly technology-based economy. Therefore, to guarantee their viability, the mining industry cannot continue to be seen as a destructive force. In this context, our project aims to reduce ground stability hazard to improve mining viability both economically and environmentally. Our testing site is the Riotinto mine, SW Spain.

Our approach combines interferometry of Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR, Sentinel-1) and seismic Ambient Noise Interferometry (ANI) in a monitoring tool called InTarsis.

The low-cost, low maintenance, ubiquity and stand-alone capability of these technologies make them ideal for monitoring. However, due to their complexity, InSAR and ANI are not commonly used. InTarsis wants to transfer these technologies to the administration and industry by improving usability in a web tool.

InTarsis proposes two innovative approaches to the soil instability problem:

  • Monitoring the target from two points of view to minimize uncertainty. InSAR for surface deformation and ANI for subsurface extension.
  • The integration of InSAR and ANI means that we are monitoring using electromagnetic and mechanic waves.

Our expected impacts are:

  • To increase mining profits by reducing risks.
  • To reduce mining environmental impact.
  • To improve InSAR (Sentinel-1) & ANI usability
  • To improve Copernicus data capability by the integration with geophysical data
  • To open a new business opportunity by applying InTarsis to other mining sites and other sectors.

The name InTarsis is the combination of “In” from interferometry and “Tarsis” from the unknown biblical place that some scholars locate in the Riotinto area as the Kingdom of the Tartessos,  whose mines were the source of King Solomon’s great wealth, especially silver, but also gold, tin and iron (Ezekiel 27). Tarsis is known as “El Dorado” of ancient times. 


InSAR monitoring with Sentinel-1 in Riotinto showing subsidence in the abandoned pit

Loss of similarity in the autocorrelation of one seismic station in Riotinto mine due to temporal changes in the subsoil mechanical properties.