If a former employee of North Antelope Rochelle, the gigantic coal mine located in Campbell County, Wyoming, returned to the site today after 20 years without setting foot in the area, it is most likely that he will not recognize it. Or take your time, at least. The reason, very simple: since it was launched in the 1980s —initially as two separate fields: North Antelope and Rochelle—, it has grown and transformed the landscapewidening its footprint.
Since the 1980s the site has changed.
And it has changed, and a lot, its environment.
Google Earth Engine It allows us to appreciate the evolution of the farm and its surroundings from practically its beginnings, in the mid-1980s. And from a satellite view. Thanks to the sequence of images captured between 1984 and 2020, the tool helps to appreciate how exploitation has radically changed its environment. The influence in the river basin Powder It is obvious.
It is not the only transformation generated by a mining operation that Google Earth Engine It has been in charge of portraying year after year and at the stroke of satellite image. Another considerable imprint is the one left over the decades Oil extraction from tar sands of Alberta, Canada. Its impact is also clear both in its environment and globally.
In 2013 Scientific American published an analysis in which he calculated that, with the technology then in use, the bituminous sands stored the equivalent of 170,000 million barrels of recoverable oil. The figure is much higher if all the resources hidden underground are taken into account. As an example, John Abraham of the Saint Thomas Universitycalculated that if all the oil in the field were burned, the impact on the environment would be more than remarkable.
Another point that has not escaped the analysis of Google Earth is Shenhua Haerwusu site, east of Xujiawan and the largest coal mine in China. The transformation of the environment over the last decades has been remarkable. It is estimated that its reserves of recoverable coal exceed 1,700 million tons and is distributed, in total, in an area of 67 km2.
Despite how fast the transformation has been and that its influence is already more than visible in the environment, the Haerwusu farm is quite young. Its production began in 2008 and since then it has become one of the great open pit mines of the Asian Giant. The deposit is located in the middle of the Zhungeer mining basin and at the time of its opening, experts estimate that it had 1.73 billion tons in coal reserves.
Images | Google Earth Engine