The satellite images were classified to extract the land cover information. Principal classes are composed by forested areas, non forested areas and bare soils.

Forest monitoring in Ambatovy mine project

The European Investment Bank (EIB) supports a nickel mining project in Madagascar (close to the town of Ambatovy) that is concerned with the development and exploitation of an open pit lateritic nickel ore mine, construction and operation of a 220 km-long slurry pipeline to the coast as well as with the construction and operation of a hydrometallurgical processing plant and refinery.  Regarding environmental aspects, Madagascar is particularly important as a biodiversity hotspot with a number of endangered species present.  Proposed mitigation efforts include amongst others establishing forest buffer zones at the mine site, the management of a substantial off-set area of primary forest and the monitoring of fragmentation along the pipeline.

Executive Summary (extracted from the Service Operation Report prepared by the service provider Keyobs)

The objective of this project was to assist the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the promoter in monitoring the natural environment in correspondence of three regions in the Ambatovy region in Eastern Madagascar: the mining area itself, located some 7 km north of Moramanga, an area covered by primary forest at Ankera and the buffer zone of about 1km around the 220 km long pipeline alignment.  The expected results of this service are a set of up-to-date high resolution orthophoto maps and land cover maps, covering the primary forests and the disturbed areas based on most recent Earth Observation data.  Five different SPOT5 satellite images were acquired during the year 2008. The satellite images were georeferenced and orthorectified using Landsat ETM+ images and the SRTM90m digital elevation model (DEM).

Assessment of impact and benefit by the user

  • The products delivered (analogue maps and digitial geo-data), i.e. orthophoto and land cover maps are a very useful contribution to the project. The maps provide a good basis for possible future monitoring, because they offer land cover information at sufficiently high quality (resolution, map scale, thematic accuracy) to see processes of interest, eg slash and burn activities in the forest. The products are very helpful in deciding how to target the monitoring. The EO data provided a valuable overview of large areas, allowing making informed decisions about how to focus field trips and monitoring resources.
  • Advantages of using satellite info: objectivity, coverage of very large and remote areas, basis for reliable monitoring, excellent communication tool – satellite images are an excellent way of visualizing and communicating the real results of EIB financing.
  • The excellent management of the service, including the translation of our user requirements into the technical specifications needed for the study, the established communication, the administration and the quality control of the products by LuxSpace was a crucial element of success of the service.  Progress reporting was well-judged – EIB was kept informed about some issues that arose during the work, but was not copied into all the technical discussions which took place.
  • EO services are a powerful tool for monitoring the effects of the Bank’s investments. It is usually the responsibility of the promoter to do the necessary on-site assessment and reporting. However, in certain cases, the Bank’s has a broader responsibility and a broader interest in obtaining more detailed information.

  • Drawbacks of using EO data: i) cloud coverage; ii) need to upgrade computer software within EIB in order to handle the geo data files
  • Difficulties arose because there are many actors involved.  There has been an ongoing need to clarify details, but LuxSpace was always very responsive and helpful on such matters.
  • Significant resource commitment due to the need to develop and manage the studies.