The value of geoscience information in less developed countries. (CR/02/087N).

Abstract

The significance of geological information for decisionmaking in land-use and development planning is not fully appreciated by many key decision makers in both developing and fully industrialised countries. The consequences of this are twofold: the national institutions responsible for providing relevant geoscience information, usually state-funded geological survey organisations (GSOs), are frequently inadequately financed, and poorly informed planning decisions are made which may result in significant economic and social losses. The purpose of the investigation summarised in this report was to review simple methodologies for the cost-benefit analysis of projects designed to produce geoscience information. In this way the economic value of various categories of information applied to planning decisions for different types of land-use and resource exploration can be quantitatively calculated or qualitatively estimated. In the course of this enquiry we have focused on the information resulting from the systematic geological and geochemical surveying activities usually undertaken by national GSOs. As examples, we describe a number of case studies that illustrate the impact of geological and geochemical maps on decision-making in the exploration for mineral and groundwater resources in a variety of less-developed countries. The methodologies employed however are applicable to geological survey information used in a wide variety of land use planning issues.

WHAT IS GEOLOGY?

Geology is broadly defined as the study of the solid Earth. It is concerned with the materials and structure of the planet and the processes that have acted, and continue to act, upon and within it to effect its composition and morphology. The terms 'geology' and 'geoscience' can be considered as synonymous. Important sub-disciplines include geophysics, which is concerned with the physical properties and dynamics of the earth; and geochemistry, which includes the study of the abundance and distribution of the chemical elements in, for example, minerals, rocks, rock weathering products, and underground and surface waters.

In practical terms it is the composition and dynamics of the outer part of the earth - the earth's crust - which is of most immediate relevance to human activity and thus to national and local land-use planning and economic and social development.

THE IMPORTANCE OF GEOSCIENCE INFORMATION

Each nation is the guardian of a unique sector of the earth's crust that underlies its territory and which, both literally and metaphorically, forms the foundation of its economic and social planning and development. It is the source of the nation's mineral, groundwater and much of its energy resources. Its interaction with the biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere determines the character of the nation's soils and the content of the essential and toxic trace elements that they contain. Its internal structure, dynamics and morphology governs the distribution of natural geohazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides.

Data can be systematically collected and interpreted to provide the information that characterises a nation's geological environment. This information can be used to inform decisions concerning land-use and national economic planning. As all decision-making involves an element of risk, the aim is to provide relevant information that reduces geological uncertainty and allows superior decisions to be made.

In the case studies developed in subsequent sections of this report we have focussed on a number of geological and geochemical surveying projects aimed at producing geological information that contributes to the assessment of a nation's wealth in terms of earth resources. Such resources can be assigned a potential value, and information concerning their availability is an important factor in national land-use and industrial development planning.

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Citation

The value of geoscience information in less developed countries. (CR/02/087N).

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