We are pleased to release our new data for 80 mill locations, which are free to use and download here.
Why mills matter
Mills are palm oil’s first bottleneck. Mills receive fruit from surrounding estates and smallholders, separating the fruit from the palm kernels and crushing the fruit into crude oil. The crude oil, kernels, and byproducts such as PFAD are then transported to crushers or refineries for further processing. If we have a good map of palm mills, we can track and analyze a range of risks from deforestation to forced labor violations.
Limits to the Universal Mill List
The universal mill list is a map of all known palm mill locations in the world. It features mill locations, operators, parent companies, and RSPO status among other vital information. The list is updated every quarter by a multi-stakeholder initiative who compile and verify location data in mill disclosures. While the Universal Mill List is a fantastic resource, it tends to be based on mill lists disclosed by companies with NDPE policies. This means the mill is already appearing in company supply chains and does not necessarily capture mills that are recently built or mills that serve leakage and domestic biofuel markets.
How we found 80 palm mills
Every quarter, we process dozens of mill lists, which we find on company websites. We then convert the often messy PDF documents into a structured database. When we encounter a mill that we can’t join to the Universal Mill List, we add it to a custom built review tool. We then review that location on a map with high resolution Planet imagery. This helps us determine whether the mill is already in the Universal Mill List mill or a new mill.
We also find new mills that have not yet appeared in mill lists. We do this by overlaying known mills with palm plantations, annual deforestation data, and oil palm concession data. If we find plantations or concessions far from a known mill, we use Planet satellite imagery to see if a new or unknown mill is operating. The basic rule is if there is large scale deforestation occurring in known oil palm planting and concession areas with no nearby existing mills, mills will likely be present.
The next stage is determining who operates the mill. If the mill comes from a mill list, information such as the mill name, operator, and parent company is often included. If not, we overlay the mills with concession data and if the mill is inside a known concession, we give the name of that concession and associate it with the concession operator. We also verify this by searching for public information on the company, if available.
We decided to share the data for two reasons. First, we want the mills included in the Universal Mill List. The Universal Mill List is an excellent initiative and benefits many organizations and companies including our own. Assuming our mills meet their criteria, they will include these mills in the next version of the Universal Mill List. We will then update our mills when the new UML list is released.
The second reason is the importance of open data. Our company would not have been possible without open source code and data. We built our first software on open source code from Mapbox and used base maps provided by OpenStreetMap contributors. We also have benefited from data from Hansen/GFW’s Annual Tree Cover Loss and GLAD alerts, and most recently ETH lab’s High Carbon Stock map. We think the best companies share data, particularly where there is public interest.
While we found 80 mills, we still don’t know all the operators and parent companies. If you have any information, please add to the comments section to add the information. This goes for both our new mills and any existing mills with UML IDs.
By joining Palmoil.io, you can analyze all of these new mills as well as 2,000+ other mills for deforestation, grievances and supply chain links. Subscriptions start at just $49 per month. Sign up here: palmoil.io/pricing