Using satellite remote sensing and participatory modelling to mitigate impacts of alluvial gold mining
Colombia has been in the news a lot recently, with the recent peace accord ending 52 years of civil war. Funding militia groups on both sides of that conflict was the production of cocaine and the extraction of gold from rivers (alluvial mining). SEES geoinformatic expert, Richard Teeuw, was asked to summarise how satellite remote sensing can be used to detect, map and monitor areas of illegal alluvial gold mining in the rainforest of NW Colombia, for a recent conference on reducing the impacts of gold mining in riverine communities in Colombia, run by the ABColombia NGO consortium and the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of London. Dr Teeuw commented that he felt like "the poacher turned game-keeper" because he worked for many years as an exploration geologist with alluvial mining companies, prior to his academic career at UoP. However, that understanding of the alluvial gold mining sector, coupled with knowledge of new space technologies, such as satellite radar remote sensing - which is unique in being able to 'see' through the cloud cover that often hides ground features in rainforest areas - is enabling Dr Teeuw and his team to produce detailed maps of alluvial mining areas, facilitating the legal actions taken by communities impacted by illegal mining.
Space technologies and the insurance industry
SEES expert on geoinformatics and risk reduction, Richard Teeuw, was the co-convener of a Breakfast Briefing on "Satellite Remote Sensing for Disaster Risk Reduction and Insurance", recently held in the Old Library of the Lloyd's Building in the City of London. The event brought together around 90 insurance, risk and remote sensing professionals to discuss how space-based Earth Observation technologies can help traditional and upcoming insurance markets. It was jointly hosted by the UK Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society and the UK Association for Geographical Information, and sponsored by two major insurance companies, Amlin and Aon Benfield.
Phil Godwin of Lloyd’s set the scene by providing an overview of how remote sensing technology was improving efficiency for claims handlers by reducing costs required for field surveys. Sean McCarthy of the UK Space Catapult gave an interesting overview of Government involvement in promoting the UK space industry for the benefit of commercial companies and illustrated how insurers can make use of practical applications and products from Remote Sensing and satellite technologies. Grant Day of the South Coast Centre for Excellence in Satellite Applications, based at the University of Portsmouth, talked about typical start-ups and how remote sensing is helping the marine economy and marine applications. Colm Jordan talked about how the British Geological Survey are using RS data to create geological risk products, and Gavin Lewis, Tina Thomson (Amlin) and Chris Ewing (Aeon Benfield) brought examples of how remote sensing and associated products are being used in the insurance industry for exposure management, catastrophe model development and quick assessment of claims. Richard Teeuw and Naomi Morris, of the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) team at the University of Portsmouth, provided examples for the developing world and how free satellite remote sensing data can help in DRR and humanitarian settings.
Overall the event provided some insights into how the London insurance and risk market is using remote sensing. The Q and A session brought a 'call to arms' to initiate the sharing of remote sensing data for both DRR and insurance with the common aim of being better prepared and forewarned for natural disasters. Follow-on sessions on the remote sensing, DRR and Insurance theme are now being prepared, in conjunction with the AGI, RSPSoc and the Royal Geographical Society.