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First ever global record of land used in mining revealed by new research

The first comprehensive global-scale data set of the geographical area used for mining activities has been revealed by Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna) using satellite imagery.

The study was undertaken by lead researchers Victor Maus and Stefan Giljum, from WU Vienna’s Institute for Ecological Economics. As Victor Maus explains: “One of the main challenges to assess the impacts of the global mining sector has been the lack of geographical information on the extraction sites.”

Despite databases on the mining sector already existing, none have previously offered a global-scale account for the land area utilised for raw material extraction.

Harnessing satellite imagery, the researchers used visual interpretation to create the data set, which covers more than 6,000 mining sites across the world, which had mining activity taking place between 2000 and 2017.

Using the satellite images, the researchers outlined the mining areas, drawing ‘polygons’ around the land used. As a result, they created a comprehensive data set of over 21,000 polygons, covering a total area of 57,277 km².

According to the researchers, this novel information can be used to improve environmental impact assessments of the global mining sector, as well as a benchmark for further monitoring of mining activity worldwide.

Stefan Giljum, Institute for Ecological Economics at Vienna University of Economics and Business, says: “In an era of rapidly increasing global demand for many metal ores, for example for electronic products or renewable energy technologies, information about the environmental consequences of mining is indispensable to achieve more sustainable production and consumption patterns”

Link to report

Data visualization


For more information, or to speak to Victor Maus or Stefan Giljum, contact Jonny Stone at or call 01582 790704.

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