Geology Open Data

Open South African Geological Data

In the last couple of years, I have had a growing interest in the open data and open access movement. I have not really done too much yet, being located on the periphery of what might be done, and with a lack of a specific project/problem to tackle. That said, I think that I have found one: Open geological data in South Africa.

I have a vested interest in being able to use geological data freely, most regularly useful for me would be a digital map of the boundaries between different rock units as found on geological maps. Since a large portion of South Africa’s economy is reliant directly on mineral resources, it makes sense to have information pertaining to it to be available.

While lithological data is available, much of it is at too high a scale to be very useful for looking at specific sites. 1:1 000 000 scale data is available, provided that you have a log-in at ESRI and can run ArcReader. That information can be found from this page. The link to the more detailed 1:250 000 scale maps is broken.

The people responsible for collecting this data in South Africa are the Council for Geoscience (formerly the Geological Survey of South Africa). Their licensing appears incredibly restrictive regarding reuse:

Apart from the geological maps, the Council have a number of other Spatially Reference Attribute databases available.
I can not see how to get significant amounts of this data without quite a heavy financial outlay, since one would need to pay for each record. Even if one did get it, I doubt that one would be able to actually do anything with it, due to the aforementioned licensing agreement.

This is the sort of thing that should be possible: Metallogenic Map of South Africa
Why this is only available on a CD, and not through a web-interface, I am not sure.

How does this gel with the Protection of Access to Information Act? I will acknowledge that the information seems to be available, but at a price (so not “free as in beer”), and can not be re-used according to the CGS license agreement mentioned earlier (so not “free as speech” either).
I note that lots of other geospatial information seems to be freely available ( for example: the comments by the head of the Chief Directorate, Surveys and Mapping in 2007 here and here ), so why is the geological data collected by the Council for Geoscience locked up to the extent it appears to be? This seems to run directly counter to their mission, at least I read it. Does anyone have any idea as to how one would be able to start liberating this data?

(As an aside, the Council for Geoscience website makes really ugly URIs and is generally difficult to navigate….)

EDIT: I would love to have the ability to do something like this project from the British Geological Survey: iGeology

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