Iron ore giant Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) has partnered with space data company Pixxel to investigate the use of hyperspectral satellite tech to monitor active and closed mine sites and ESG metrics.

Pixxel is set to launch its first high-res satellite early this year, which could potentially reduce costs and timelines for exploration and improve mine site monitoring.

“In the coming months, Pixxel plans to launch a high-resolution hyperspectral satellite, which will capture 50x information compared to common multispectral satellites,” The company said.

“Rio Tinto will be assessing the potential of Pixxel’s hyperspectral imagery to help reduce the disturbance footprint of exploration activities, monitor the operational and environmental performance of active mining operations, and monitor biodiversity and vegetation health around closed sites.”

Exponential leap in image quality the key

Basically, hyperspectral imaging is a technique that analyses a wide spectrum of light instead of just assigning primary colours – red, green, blue – to each pixel.

The light striking each pixel is broken down into many different spectral bands in order to provide more information on what is imaged. The collected spectra are then used to form an image in a way that each image pixel includes a complete spectrum.

Pixxel co-founder and CEO Awais Ahmed told International Mining that the pioneering partnership will explore using the tech across Rio’s sites globally.

“The exponential leap in image quality (50x more detail than existing multispectral satellite imagery) allows Rio Tinto the ability to assess Pixxel’s imagery for monitoring critical mining operations and make key decisions with sustainability in mind,” he said.

Rio head of exploration Dave Andrews added that the company is participating in the early adopter program because “we believe that exploration could benefit from more cost-effective and easier access to hyperspectral satellite data.”