It is estimated that in Europe an area between 5-10 000 km2 is covered by active and abandoned surface mines and their associated operations, with their open casts and waste by-products blighting the landscape over a much greater region.
This is not only aesthetically displeasing, but also poses an environmental health risk to an area in the form of heavy metal, mineral salt, and acid-forming compound contamination of the soil substrate, as well as surface and subsurface waterbodies. Most European countries now require, by law, an environmental impact study and reclamation programme prior to the issuance of a mining licence, or the extension of an existing one, and these are normally undertaken by expensive ground and aerial photography surveys. Spaceborne remote sensing, in combination with digital elevation models and geographical information systems, offers the possibility to provide comparable information, but in a more rapid and cost-effective manner, which permits the updating of an information data base on a regular basis. This information can then be used in a decision support system to provide a choice of solutions to addressing specific environmental problems and regulatory requirements related to mine site conditions.
The ASTERISMOS Project, comprising partners from Greece, Spain, Great Britain, The Netherlands, and Austria, is designed to develop such a system, using both satellite remote sensing data (Landsat TM, SPOT panchromatic, and KVR-1000) and GIS technology, and to make it available via the internet and on a multimedia CD-ROM. Mine reclamation sites in both Greece and Spain are being used to develop the system and to illustrate its application in actual mining situations.