The Private Impact of Public Maps: Landsat Satellite Imagery and Gold Exploration
Posted: 23 Jul 2016
Date Written: July 17, 2016
For centuries, governments have invested in new maps of poorly-understood geographies and yet the economic value of publicly-provided geographic information remains unexamined. To shed light on this topic, I focus on the impact of Landsat, a NASA satellite mapping program, on shaping the discovery of new deposits in the gold exploration industry. Exploiting quasi-random gaps in mapping coverage, I find that information from Landsat nearly doubled the rate of significant new discoveries and disproportionately supported the junior sector of the industry. These findings suggest an important role for the public provision of basic knowledge in encouraging industry performance and entrepreneurship.
Keywords: landsat, mapping, digitization, public investments
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