Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Mapping extent and change in surface mines within the United States for 2001 to 2006

February 1, 2016

A complete, spatially explicit dataset illustrating the 21st century mining footprint for the conterminous United States does not exist. To address this need, we developed a semi-automated procedure to map the country's mining footprint (30-m pixel) and establish a baseline to monitor changes in mine extent over time. The process uses mine seed points derived from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS), and USGS National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD) and recodes patches of barren land that meet a “distance to seed” requirement and a patch area requirement before mapping a pixel as mining. Seed points derived from EIA coal points, an edited MRDS point file, and 1992 NLCD mine points were used in three separate efforts using different distance and patch area parameters for each. The three products were then merged to create a 2001 map of moderate-to-large mines in the United States, which was subsequently manually edited to reduce omission and commission errors. This process was replicated using NLCD 2006 barren pixels as a base layer to create a 2006 mine map and a 2001–2006 mine change map focusing on areas with surface mine expansion. In 2001, 8,324 km2 of surface mines were mapped. The footprint increased to 9,181 km2 in 2006, representing a 10·3% increase over 5 years. These methods exhibit merit as a timely approach to generate wall-to-wall, spatially explicit maps representing the recent extent of a wide range of surface mining activities across the country.