SYMIN: System for Monitoring Law Enforcement of Informal Mining

Afghanistan has extensive mineral deposits including but not limited to copper, coal, gold, and gemstones which are often exploited in small scale and artisanal mining (ASM) sites. Until today no comprehensive overview about informal mining activities in terms of the geographic localisation, size of the mining sites and the exploited resources exists. Indeed, tribalism and lack of communication and transport infrastructure make for low governability of the territory and outside Kabul the state with its operational legal apparatus in the modern sense of the word, is virtually absent.

Nevertheless, the enforcement of the existing Minerals and Hydrocarbons Law and their corresponding regulations has been pointed as a necessary contribution to Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines (MoM) strategic objectives. In order to achieve this it is of crucial importance to know the exact location of mining activities. With this knowledge the Ministry of Mines can ensure monitoring and inspection of technical, environmental and social compliance of mining operations and can regularise and formalise the existing, informal ASM sector. 

The Institute for Environmental Security, together with its partners the German space company GAF AG , Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) and the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) have been tasked by the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide timely information for the ministry of mines about informal mining in Afghanistan, covering prior defined hot-spot areas within the country.

The service will contribute to provide a comprehensive picture of informal mining activities in Afghanistan answering questions such as:

  • Where are the locations of active sites?
  • What activities are performed and what is the duration of activity?
  •  Where are transportation routes?

The service uses high to very high resolution imagery (VHR) from optical sensors for the detection of mining sites in certain mining areas. In addition, the mining areas are then analysed to provide detailed information on the activities carried out (mined area, excavation rates, transport routes, etc.). Stereo pairs of optical data are used for estimation of mine tailings volume.

The service provision is accompanied by capacity building, including training of Ministry of Mines (MoM) staff concerning appliance and utilisation of the information products and show their constraints, limitations and practical use.

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