‘Afghanistan’ first country to have mineral mapped: USGS

Saturday, July 21, 2012
Kabul: Afghanistan has become the first country in the world to have its surface minerals mapped from the air using broad scale hyper-spectral data.  

The U.S. Geographical Survey (USGS) has mapped some 70 percent of the country using an advanced technique known as “hyperspectral imaging,” which involves using a camera to capture sunlight reflected from the ground.

Mineral mapped image of Afghanistan. Photo: USGS

Specific colors on the mineral map reflect different natural minerals as well as man-made minerals, vegetation, and snow.

USGS spokesman Alex Demas maintains that the map will make it easier to identify and estimate mineral deposits for international mining companies looking to invest in Afghanistan, which is known to have vast reserves of oil, gas, copper, cobalt, gold, and lithium.

“This imagery allows us to identify with very good accuracy where certain types of materials are," he says. "And this is very useful, especially for the mining industry. In fact, the USGS and the Afghan Geological Survey have already identified, using this information, 24 areas of high-profile mining interests.”

International mining companies have made huge investments in Afghan mining in recent years.

The USGS gathered the data over the space of 43 days from aircrafts travelling at a height of 15,000 meters.

The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations as well as by the Afghan government.

In developing the maps, more than 800 million pixels of data were generated. Over the course of 43 days and 28 flights, USGS flew nearly 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometers), collecting data that covered approximately 170,000 square miles (440,000 square kilometers). 

The hyperspectral data collected in Afghanistan have already allowed USGS and the Afghan Geological Survey to identify several areas with a high potential for mineral formations.  These data are being used by the Afghan Government to develop information packages to support mineral development in the country. 

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