Mining of stone and metal has been done since pre-historic times. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the land after the mine is closed.
The nature of mining processes creates a potential negative impact on the environment both during the mining operations and for years after the mine is closed. This impact has led most of the world’s nations to adopt regulations designed to moderate the negative effects of mining operations. Safety has long been a concern as well, and modern practices have improved safety in mines significantly.
The above images, taken by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite, show Sarcheshmeh Copper Complex in Iran. The image was generated from three of ASTER’s short-wave infrared bands. The bright colors in this image correspond to different rock types known as alteration minerals. These alteration minerals oftentimes are good indicators of where copper might be found in the Earth.
Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey are using images such as these to locate alteration minerals all across Iran. Their goal is to test ASTER’s ability to locate copper and other minerals. NASA Earth Observatory images by Robert Simmon, based on data from the NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team collected by Alireza Taravat.