Monitoring Supply Chains: Antioquia Department of Colombia Gold Mining


February 9th, 2021


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The Challenge

Companies which create consumer goods, such as smart phones, tablets and laptops, rely heavily upon the trust and credibility of their brand to sell their products. As a result of the increased awareness of the environmental impact linked to industrial activities, consumer behaviours are changing. Purchasers are demanding greater environmental and social transparency and information about the products they are buying. Market leading companies are recognising the need to have ethically and, where possible, sustainably sourced components and products. 

A high-profile example of this shift in consumer behaviour can be seen in the battery supply chain. The source and environmental impact of battery components has been an area of great contention in recent years. With the sourcing of battery metals, such as cobalt, frequently coming from artisanal mining communities and even illegal groups. 

Artisanal mining, because of the small scale of the activities, often do not carry out the same environmental and social safeguarding practices of the larger mining companies. These activities, while individually small, when considered together have large long-term impacts on the environment and social dynamics in a region. To illustrate the scale of these activities, 60% of all cobalt mined within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) comes from artisanal miners. 

Therefore, consumers are now demanding that companies that use these components have greater visibility of where their materials come from and to importantly ensure that their products are being sourced in an environmental and socially responsible fashion.

Sentinel 2 L1C image on 2020 11 14
An example of artisanal gold mining in the Antioquia Department of Colombia captured from satellite imagery.

Our Solution

Using our technology, we can identify the presence of artisanal mining on a regular basis as well as provide insights into the impact of the activity, on both the environment and the local communities. This information provides companies with trusted and transparent insights regarding the sustainability of their supply chains. 

We use the best satellite imagery and complementary data sources, with the latest analytical approaches to derive our information products and services. We have the ability to identify individual small-scale mining operations all the way to monitoring an entire end-to-end supply chain and its socio-environmental impacts. 

While there are many observable parameters which can be quantified from space, the following provides an example of the most frequently requested targets: vegetation degradation, seepage and leaching, identification and preservation of cultural heritage locations, access to fresh water, deforestation and presence of dust.