Satellite images to assist in public monitoring over gold mining
The workshop on public monitoring over the placer mining of gold, organized as part of “Amur Coalition for Participatory Governance over Natural Resources,” a WWF’s project supported by the European Union, took place on 14 December in Blagoveshensk. It was devoted to the issues of using remote sensing in monitoring of river pollution caused by gold dredging harmful for the environment. The seminar was organized by the Amur branch of WWF Russia in partnership with Blagoveshensk State Pedagogical Institute, the AmurSEU (Amur Social and Environmental Union) the “Transparent World”. Among the participants were civil society activists, staff of Rosprirodnadzor (Environmental control agency) of Amurskaya province, provincial Environmental prosecutor’s office, Amursky Wildlife Management Department, the Directorate of Protected Areas, and Far Eastern Agricultural University.
It is not the first time when WWF Russia and its partners focused on the issue of gold dredging in the Amur River basin. For instance, in 2012 WWF Russia published the digest “Golden Rivers” to analyze the scope of this problem.
“The workshop became an important step towards forming public governance over fulfillment of environmental legislation during mining operations. Gold mining is one of the top industries in Amurskaya province. There are companies that carefully follow the environmental law as well as those that violate the legislation. We believe that participants of the workshop will be able to carry out public monitoring and help the government of Amurskaya province to halt existing violations”, - comments Peter Osipov, PhD, the director of WWF Russia Amur branch.
The work of the portal nedra.kosmosnimki.ru was presented. The portal was developed for detecting river pollution caused by gold mining operations. For this purpose the portal automatically displays the images received from Landsat-8 satellite. Differences in colour allow to identify the intensity of pollution and the length of polluted areas. Data is updated 10 times a month. Moreover, open data from portal map.mineral.ru allow to identify the owners of the licensed sites where pollution takes place. In this case, this data assists in detecting the cases of pollution in the most remote regions and preliminary determine responsible operators.
“This system is useful for people who carry out public monitoring in this sector, because it allows in real time detect potentially polluted parts of rivers and appeal to related agencies to organize inspections of certain mine operators. Moreover, the system is useful for governmental structures as an effective tool to rapidly detect polluted sites and reveal violations”. – comments Yury Gafarov, director of the AmurSEU, the biggest environmental NGO in the Amurskaya province
One of the main problems in detecting pollution is the remote location of gold mining sites from local settlements and roads, which makes regular monitoring of water quality very challenging. Therefore, atellite monitoring helps to carry out targeted inspections of existing pollutions even in most remote areas.
The system of satellite monitoring was already tested in Krasnoyarsky and Zabaikalsky provinces and in Altai Republic. It was proved effective. Testing of the system in Amurskaya province will start during next mining season, in May 2017.