Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SkyTruth - How Do We Help?

At SkyTruth we focus on creating images from satellite and aerial imagery that shed light on environmental concerns, especially landscape- and ecosystem-altering activities such as oil and gas drilling, mining, and deforestation. Many citizen's groups, large and small, use our work to help raise awareness of the problems and issues they're confronting. Every so often we get a note of thanks, letting us know exactly how we've helped, often in ways we didn't even foresee. We just received this one, with permission from the author to share it with you. She is fighting uranium mining in Colorado, and writes this in response to images of mining near residential neighborhoods that we posted last week:
You can never know how much you've helped our effort.

In our pain and anguish, we never found the Butte, Montana, mine. We always looked for a uranium mine. However the Berkeley Mine is pertinent because of the devastation to their water.

We've always believed that there was one issue that would save us... and that is water!

Your photos of the Berkeley Mine led us to diagrams of the dewatering of their area. That mine is literally across the street from Butte, Montana, and the people with private water wells were probably hooked up to city water (that fact is no excuse for this disaster),but what will we do when our water table is lowered and our water wells run dry? We are 9 miles, as the crow flies, from city water.

The Fremont Board of County Commissioners voted to approve Uranium Exploration within 500 feet of 44 land and homeowners. They've stated that they do not believe they can "take" the rancher's minerals. They won't exercise their own authority to deny an inappropriate adjacent land use to our homes and retirement properties.

Water is our last weapon. Your photos lead us to examples of how massive dewatering affects the area. Not only by the absence of water, but by the contamination of the water that infills the contaminated hole that is left. More than one mine in Montana has to have water treatment in "perpetuity." Who pays for that cost? Taxpayers! It's disgraceful to allow this to happen. It's a waste beyond words... of precious Western water, and taxpayer resources.

How can these backwards legislators continue to vote to allow this kind of thing to happen when the results are so proven to cost multi-million dollars more than the few jobs these projects bring?

Thank you, more than words can express. Doesn't mean that they will do the right thing, but it's a fantastic start!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gold Mining In the 'Hood: Morro do Ouro Gold Mine - Paracatu, Brazil

How'd you like to have a fast-growing open-pit gold mine in your neighborhood?

Town of Paracatu with mining operation (gray) in the background.

That's a serious question facing the folks in Paracatu, in the Minas Gerais state of eastern Brazil. Gold mining there has occurred since the early 1700's, but really kicked into high gear with full-scale open-pit mining beginning in the 1980s, becoming the biggest gold mine in Brazil. Since 2006, a Canadian company, Kinross Gold Corporation, has owned and operated the mine and recently began a major expansion. SkyTruth has created a gallery of vertical and panoramic views showing the mine, processing facilities, tailings impoundment, and proximity to Paracatu, a city of about 100,000 people.

This certainly isn't the only place where mining and neighborhoods collide. Check out our gallery for Cerro de Pasco in Peru.

Cerro de Pasco mine, Peru

And here in the US, the Berkeley Pit copper/gold mine in Butte, Montana, gradually ate up neighborhoods throughout the life of the mine. Now the closed mine poses a toxic threat to groundwater that has landed in the lap of local residents and US taxpayers. It's the gift that keeps on giving. We've posted a couple of pics of this gem.

Berkeley Pit, Butte, Montana

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thanks are (over)due....



...to our friends at ERDAS, makers of Imagine, the powerful image processing and mapping software that we use here at SkyTruth. They provide this at a steeply discounted rate to non-profits like us. Almost everything we do uses Imagine; a couple of examples are our time-series of urban growth in Las Vegas, and our multi-decade analysis of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.

...and to our friends at Google Earth, who once again have extended, at no cost, the license for us to continue using Google Earth Pro for another year. Check out a couple of the ways we've used Google Earth Pro: for mapping coal-combustion waste disposal in high-risk flood zones, and showing residential development encroaching into the habitat of the endangered Preble's Mouse.

A big tip o' the hat to companies like these who make a real effort to support the non-profit community.