Object-based image analysis for the assessment of mineral extraction in conflict regions – a case study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Keywords: land cover change, natural resources, mining, object-based image analysis, remote sensing
Abstract. In this study object-based image analysis (OBIA) techniques were applied to assess land cover changes related to mineral extraction in a conflict-affected area of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over a period of five years based on very high resolution (VHR) satellite data of different sensors. Object-based approaches explicitly consider spatio-temporal aspects which allow extracting important information to document mining activities. The use of remote sensing data as an independent, up-to-date and reliable data source provided hints on the general development of the mining sector in relation to socio-economic and political decisions. While in early 2010, the situation was still characterised by an intensification of mineral extraction, a mining ban between autumn 2010 and spring 2011 marked the starting point for a continuous decrease of mining activities. The latter can be substantiated through a decrease in the extend of the mining area as well as of the number of dwellings in the nearby settlement. A following demilitarisation and the mentioned need for accountability with respect to the origin of certain minerals led to organised, more industrialized exploitation. This development is likewise visible on satellite imagery as typical clearings within forested areas. The results of the continuous monitoring in turn facilitate non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to further foster the mentioned establishment of responsible supply chains by the mining industry throughout the entire period of investigation.