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.

A8 1985

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation, in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 1985.

A7 1990

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 1990.

A6 1995

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation, in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 1995.

A5 2000

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 2000.

A4 2005

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation, in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 2005.

A3 2011

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 2011.

Y2 2016

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation, in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 2016.

Y1 2020

North Antelope Rochelle mining operation in the Powder River Basin (USA) in 2020.

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.

Bituminous Sands in Alberta Canada 1984

Oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada, in 1984.

Bituminous Sands in Alberta Canada 1988

Oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada, in 1988.

Bituminous Sands in Alberta Canada 1992

Oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada, in 1992.

Bituminous Sands in Alberta Canada 1996

Oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada, in 1996.

Bituminous Sands in Alberta Canada 2001

Oil sands mining in Alberta, Canada, in 2001.

Bituminous Sands in Alberta Canada 2006

Oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada, in 2006.

Bituminous Sands in Alberta Canada 2011

Oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada, in 2011.

Bituminous Sands In Alberta Canada 2016

Oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada, in 2016.

Bituminous Sands In Alberta Canada 2020

Oil sands mining in Alberta, Canada, in 2020.

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.

Chinese Mine 1984

Haerwusu mining operation in China in 1984.

mine 1995

Haerwusu mining operation in China in 1995.

Chinese Mine 2000

Haerwusu mining operation in China in 2000.

Chinese Mine 2005

Haerwusu mining operation in China in 2005.

China Mine 2010

Haerwusu mining operation in China in 2010.

China Mine 2015

Haerwusu mining operation in China in 2015.

China Mine 2020

Haerwusu mining operation in China in 2020.

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

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