Mining Landfills Made Easier with Satellites

Landfill image, taken by Louie Psihoyos/Corbin, hosted on New Scientist’s site

This New Scientist post is quite interesting.  It talks about a topic that is a bit unusual:  landfill mining.  There is at least one company out there right now–Terra Recovery–that’s taking advantage of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Business Incubation Centers to hatch an idea for using satellites for their business.  And that business is finding landfills of all kinds for possible materials mining opportunities using ESA satellites.

The satellites are cheaper to use than the method of taking core samples from every single landfill site (which is what they have to do to figure out if the landfill is worth mining).  Each one of those core samples costs £1,200.  Satellites would also be quicker.  The article notes there are at least 25,000 landfill sites in the United Kingdom.  That would be a lot of core samples to collect, and of course driving from landfill to landfill takes some time, too.  Theoretically, the satellites could take image collections of all possible sites in one pass over the United Kingdom.

Once the images are analyzed, then the plan would be for flying a drone or aircraft over the candidate sites for further evaluation.  If the idea works, then other satellites, especially relatively inexpensive small satellites (like the ones Planet Labs is using), will also be looked as a possible less expensive option to accomplish the same mission.

There’s no word about whether such satellite imagery will also be used to identify ancient burial grounds for housing developers to desecrate by building homes on them.

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