Australia supplies many of the world's commodities including rare earth elements, such as lithium, that are used extensively in modern technology. These minerals have only in recent years been the focus of mining and exploration companies.
However, lack of consistency between mineral deposit maps made it challenging to uncover new potential mining prospects.
Revealing mineral deposits
From a ten-year archive of raw advanced spaceborne thermal emission and reflection (ASTER) data for Australia, collected by NASA's Terra satellite and the Japanese Government's Japan Space Systems, we created a continent-wide suite of mineral maps.
This involved developing the methods and software tools to the process satellite imagery to remove instrumental, atmospheric effects and seasonal features, sampling to validate the final products, and developing a delivery mechanism so that the data products are accessible to everyone.
The resulting maps show information about rock and soil mineral components, allowing users to view details from thousands of kilometres wide to just a few kilometres wide.
The ASTER mineral maps are already changing the way that geoscientists look for mineral deposits by providing more accurate and detailed information than ever before.
In the first three months following their release in 2012, the maps were downloaded 40,000 times, and have become the default base map for mineral exploration in Australia.
To achieve this, we collaborated with Japan Space Systems, AIST, NASA, USGS, Geoscience Australia, Australian state and territory geological surveys, AuScope, Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, NCI and JSS.
The ASTER Geoscience Maps of Australia were made possible by funding through the WA Exploration Incentive Scheme and Western Australian Centre of Excellence for 3D Mineral Mapping.