In June 2014, a joint USAID and USGS team used a small UAV to map artisanal diamond mining sites in Western Guinea. The purpose of this UAV mission was to support the “Kimberley Process (KP), an international initiative aimed at preventing the flow of conflict diamonds.” Adhering to the Process’s regulations is proving challenging for “countries whose diamonds are produced through artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM).” These mines are “often remote and spread over vast territories, and the diamonds found are frequently sold into informal networks,” which makes it “very difficult to track production—a key requirement of the KP.” National governments have recently taken important steps to formalize ASM by “registering miners, delineating mining zones, and establishing a legal flow chain through which production is intended to move. The ability to map and monitor artisanal diamond mining sites is a necessary step towards achieving formalization. Doing so helps to identify where mining is taking place, the extent of activities, the amount of production, and how the activity and production change over time.”
While the US Geological Survey (USGS) has been using satellite imagery to “identify ASM activities and estimate the production in diamond mining zones through-out the region,” satellite imagery presents a number of limitations. These include “atmospheric constraints (cloud cover, haze, smoke, etc.)” as well as “temporal resolutions that fail to capture the dynamic nature of ASM sites and spatial resolutions that can be inadequate for identifying fine-scale features.” Hence the use of UAVs to “support USAID’s Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD) project’s efforts to formalize ASM in Guinea.” USAID and USGS deployed a joint team in June 2014 to “create detailed site maps and generate very-high resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) of the region to better inform diamond production evaluations.” The team flew a DJI Phantom 1, a multi-rotor UAV (pictured below) to “collect data at seven artisanal diamond mining sites in the Forecariah Prefecture of western Guinea.” The DJI UAV was flown by Visual Line of Site (VLOS).