Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Timothy A Warner

Committee Co-Chair

J Steven Kite

Committee Member

Rick E Landenberger

Committee Member

Brenden E McNeil

Committee Member

Nicolas P Zegre


This dissertation focuses on the mapping and monitoring of mineral mining activity using remotely sensed data. More specifically, it explores the challenges and issues associated with remote sensing-based analysis of land use land cover (LULC) and topographic changes in the landscape associated with artisanal and industrial-scale mining. It explores broad themes of image analysis, including evaluation of error in digital elevation models (DEMs), integration of multiple scales and data sources, quantification of change, and remote sensing classification in data-scarce environments. The dissertation comprises three case studies.;The first case study examines the LULC change associated with two scales of mining activity (industrial and artisanal) near Tortiya, Cote d'Ivoire. Industrial mining activity was successfully mapped in a regional LULC classification using Landsat multispectral imagery and support vector machines (SVMs). However, mapping artisanal mining required high-resolution imagery to discriminate the small, complex patterns of associated disturbance.;The second case study is an investigation of the potential for quantifying topographic change associated with mountain top removal mining and the associated valley-fill operations for a region in West Virginia, USA, using publicly available DEMs. A 1:24,000 topographic map data, the shuttle radar topography mission (SRTM) DEM, a state-wide photogrammetric DEM, and the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission Radiometer (ASTER) Global DEM (GDEM) were compared to a lidar bare-earth reference DEM. The observed mean error in both the SRTM and GDEM was statistically different than zero and modeled a surface well above the reference DEM surface. Mean error in the other DEMs was lower, and not significantly different than zero. The magnitude of the root mean square error (RMSE) suggests that only topographic change associated with the largest topographic disturbances would be separable from background noise using global DEMS such as the SRTM. Nevertheless, regionally available DEMs from photogrammetric sources allow mapping of mining change and quantification of the total volume of earth removal.;Monitoring topographic change associated with mining is challenging in regions where publicly available DEMs are limited or not available. This challenge is particularly acute for artisanal mining, where the topographic disturbance, though locally important, is unlikely to be detected in global elevation data sets. Therefore, the third and final case study explored the potential for creating fine-spatial resolution bare-earth DEMs from digital surface models (DSMs) using high spatial resolution commercial satellite imagery and subsequent filtering of elevation artifacts using commercial lidar software and other spatial filtering techniques. Leaf-on and leaf-off DSMs were compared to highlight the effect of vegetation on derived bare-earth DEM accuracy. The raw leaf-off DSM was found to have very low error overall, with notably higher error in areas of evergreen vegetation. The raw leaf-on DSM was found to have a RMSE error much higher than the leaf-off data, and similar to that of the SRTM in dense deciduous forest. However, filtering using the commercial techniques developed for lidar notably reduced the error present in the raw DSMs, suggesting that such approaches could help overcome data scarcity in regions where regional or national elevation data sets are not available.;Collectively this research addressed data issues and methodological challenges in the analysis of 3D changes caused by resource extraction. Elevation and optical imagery are key data sets for mapping the disturbance associated with mining. The particular combination required regarding data spatial scale, and for elevation, accuracy, is a function of the type and scale of the mining.