The data distinguish a range of different minerals and snow or vegetation cover
Afghanistan has become the first country whose surface minerals have been mapped from the air.
The US Geological Survey released the results of a
"hyperspectral imaging" effort, in which reflections of light shone from
an aircraft are analysed.
Different minerals - as well as snow or vegetation - reflect specific colours, resulting in a "mineral map".
The map comprises more than 800 million data points corresponding to an area of 440,000 sq km, some 70% of the country.
Afghanistan is known to have vast reserves of oil, gas,
copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. In late 2011, a consortium of Indian
companies inked a deal to begin mining some of the country's large stores of iron.
But the country is known to have a wider array of mineral resources; in 2010, the Afghan ministry of mines claimed a value of its reserves of nearly a trillion dollars, then carrying out tours to promote investment in them.
But it remains to pin down which economically viable minerals
are where, an effort for which the USGS's hyperspectral imaging
expertise was enlisted.
In a series of 28 flights over 43 days, the USGS gathered the
data by shining visible and infrared light from a height of 15,000m and
using a camera to capture the reflections. Each "pixel" of the camera
was analysed and correlated with the materials that reflect at a given
The USGS public release of the data includes two maps: one of iron and iron-bearing minerals, and one of minerals principally containing carbon, silicon, or sulphur.
The survey was funded by the US Department of Defense's Task
Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) as well as the
"This is a tremendous tool for the Afghan government for
locating and identifying its myriad rich mineral deposits," said TFBSO
director Jim Bullion.
"These maps clearly show the enormous size and variety of
Afghanistan's mineral wealth and position the country to become a world
leader in the minerals sector."source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18882996
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