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Posted on April 2nd, 2019

Our Changing Landscape – Mir Mine, Russia

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with a time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 14 billion square kilometers of data. Last month we checked out a rapidly growing town along the sunny, warm coast of Florida, and for the April edition of Our Changing Landscape we head overseas with a look at one of the largest open pit mines in the world, the Mir Mine in Russia.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over Mir Mine, in Mirny, Russia on July 10, 2010, June 9, 2013, August 22, 2015 and June 8, 2018. When we watched the animation over and over (and over…), we noticed several new projects in the northwest and the south of Mirny. In the northwest it appears to be removal of large sections of rocks, perhaps mining? While in the south it appears to be new drainage but we could definitely be wrong with both guesses. The other noticeable change was the spread of red rooves throughout the town – particularly between the 2013 and 2015 image – perhaps this is a Russian pride trend we are seeing? Whatever the reason, the animation of Mir Mine is intriguing in of itself as it moves around the images with the changing nadir and look-angle of the various dates. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2019)

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter (m) medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers daily revisits to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a starting cost of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.

The Mir Diamond Mine Through the Last Decade

The Mir Mine is located in the eastern Russian town of Mirny. As one of the largest open pit mines in the world, it is at least 1,700 feet (518 meters) deep and 3,900 feet (1,189 meters) wide. Diamonds were discovered here in 1955 and the development of Mir Mine started in 1957 apparently by the direct order of the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin. At one time, the open pit mine produced more than 10 million carats of diamonds per year, generating a treasure trove of profits which helped fuel Soviet Union expansion and aggression during the 20th Century.

With the fall of the USSR, operations at Mir Mine were transferred to the Sakha Diamond Company with surface, open-pit mining continuing until 2001. In the 1970s, underground tunnels were built below and around Mir Mine and it appears that mining continued there even after the open-pit mine was shut down. Between 2001 and 2009, when the mine was recommissioned by Alrosa, it is unclear what, if anything, occurred above and below ground here. Up until a 2017 accident which killed 8 miners, Mir Mine apparently produced 3.2 million carats of diamonds per year from the underground tunnels; though all mining has reportedly been halted since the flooding accident. Now that you have a bit of background about the Mir Mine in Russia, it is time to turn to the 5-meter RapidEye archive to see how the site might have changed since 2010.

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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