¡VAMOS! & UNEXMIN joint conference, Bled

On the January 30, the Hotel Kompas in Bled, Slovenia, hosted the “Use of Robotics and Automation for Mineral Prospecting and Extraction”, a joint conference of UNEXMIN, ¡VAMOS! and Real Time Mining Projects. The conference was led by Gorazd Zibret from the Geological Survey of Slovenia. The 1-day conference featured the latest research in a variety of topics related to robotics and automation and their application to exploration and extraction of mineral raw materials. It started with a plenary session featuring presentations such as “Advances in Subsea Mining” (Stef Kapusniak) and “Future Mining: Scenarios and Roadmaps (an international review)” (Marco Konrat Martins, LPRC).

The conference was then divided into two parallel sessions: one related to Hardware developments moderated by Norbert Zajzon (University of Miskolc) and the other related to Software developments moderated by Steve Henley (Resource Computing International).

After the lunch break, the conference resumed with a plenary session introducing the leading projects. LPRC presented “UNEXMIN project: an underwater explorer for flooded mines” (Luís Lopes).

UNEXMIN / ¡VAMOS! workshops

During the afternoon, the participants were divided in two interactive workshops: one dedicated to exploitation of the technologies, the other to future research and technology roadmap planning.

On the exploitation workshop participants were called to answer three questions. The input will then be used to adapt better exploitation measures for both projects. The questions were: (1) What is the best the best exploitation strategy for project participants?, (2) How to persuade customers to buy/invest into new technologies? and, (3) How and where to get additional funds for the projects’ development?.

The research roadmap workshop focussed on analysing future scenarios and how the technologies can adapt to specific changes in the raw materials sector. Then, participants helped in the identification of future prospects in three main areas: geological data collection, spatial awareness and navigation, and extraction. The data will be used to define possible research/technology pathways for both projects for the short, medium and long-term future.

Field trip to Idrija Mercury Mine – UNESCO WHS

LPRC team participated at the fieldtrip, previous to UNEXMIN & ¡VAMOS! joint conference, to Idrija mercury (Hg) mine, west from Ljubljana. The mercury occurrence was discovered at Idrija in the 15th century, and the mining operation soon followed. Mercury is present as both liquid metal and cinnabar (HgS) – Idrija has been developed as the second largest Hg mine in the world. During the last centuries, Idrija’s miners dug over 700 km tunnels, spread across 15 levels down to 380 m depth. The estimated total production is around 150 thousand tonnes of mercury, that has been used for science, agriculture, extraction of other precious metals, amongst other uses, across Europe and worldwide(1). However, Hg mining in Europe has been shut down, together with the Idrija mine, in 1995 due to health and environmental concerns. Today the mine and the ore processing facilities are part of the UNESCO World Heritage, showcasing the rich mining history to visitors.

The mine visit showed the technological characteristics of Hg mining at different centuries. The visitors were also explained about the life of the miners, the role that Hg mining played in the economic, political, cultural aspects of Idrija, and its advantages/disadvantages.

360 degree view in the mine (drag and move the photo to look around).

The group next visited the nearby ore processing facilities and the historical exhibition of Idrija Hg mining. The ore processing facilities went through, at least, 8 major technological upgrade since 1490.

Minatura2020 Final Consortium Meeting, Brussels

The last MINATURA2020 consortium meeting took place in Brussels on the 10th January 2018. The project that is due to end by in the 31st of January is defining a very important concept for European mineral raw materials: the establishment of MDoPI – Mineral Deposits of Public Important – and how to map and protect them, so mineral raw materials can be used tomorrow.

The one-day conference that gathered the project partners, the Advisory Board members and also representatives from EASME, started with a welcome statement and an overview of the agenda. To these, then followed the presentation of the work and conclusions of 6 work packages of the MINATURA2020 project:

  • WP1 – Land use assessment
  • WP2 – Development of a harmonised mapping framework
  • WP3 – Regulatory framework
  • WP4 – Demonstration and pilot-testing of developed methodology at case study level
  • WP5 – Stakeholder involvement on mineral deposits of public importance
  • WP6 – Dissemination

After everyone was updated on the work developed through all the MINATURA2020 project, a panel discussion was held with some of the participants. The discussions of this panel worked around (1) the access to land and how to balance industries and authorities’ interests, (2) the identification of MDoPI from the Geological Surveys point of view and (3) tools and models in R&D, among other pressing themes related to the definition and real application of the MDoPI concept developed by the MINATURA 2020 consortium.

The meeting ended with some final remarks, conclusions and prospects of what was done in the project and what are the next steps in the applicability of the MDoPI concept.

Developing a mechanism to protect and safeguard mineral deposits in Europe proved to be a challeging task due to the many divergences present through all European countries and to challenges in land-use planning. However, the MINATURA 2020 project was able to create a definition and establish different sets of criteria that can be applied by different countries to protect their mineral deposits for future use.

In the end, MINATURA 2020 was a successful project, that opened the way to the safeguard and protection of such an important commodity for our daily lives, as minerals are!

All interested persons can subscribe to the Minatura 2020 Council of Stakeholders and view a video that showcases the project’s objectives.

FORAM at the MIN-GUIDE annual conference 2017, Brussels

The MIN-GUIDE annual conference 2017 was held in Brussels, 13th and 14th of December 2017. The conference was entitled “An Innovation-Friendly Policy Framework along the Mineral Production Value Chain” and intended to provide insights into the “cornerstones and future trends of an innovation-friendly policy framework for exploration and extraction, processing, waste management, and mine closure”.

As part of the MIN-GUIDE conference’s poster section, the FORAM project was presented by LPRC member Luís Lopes. The FORAM project is creating a World Forum on Raw Materials in order to further establish the international cooperation on raw materials throughout its entire value chain. Through the poster, the FORAM project attracted a lot of attention, mainly from institutions who want to be involved as stakeholders in the development of the forum (envisaged to be ready by the end of 2018). The FORAM project aims to connect institutions and persons in its network, understand their needs, and adapt cooperation measures to solve them.

UNEXMIN and ¡VAMOS! at the “H2020 cluster event for ongoing mining projects”, Brussels

Both the UNEXMIN and ¡VAMOS! projects were presented at the first event on Horizon 2020 mining projects, entitled “H2020 cluster event for ongoing mining projects”, organized by EASME in Brussels, Belgium, on the 12th of December 2017. The event served as a catalyser to gather Horizon 2020 and FP7 projects that are performing research and innovation in the various areas of the mining sector. These include underwater exploration (the case for UNEXMIN) and underwater exploitation (the case for ¡VAMOS!), amongst many others.

The one-day event was characterised by presentations from each of the invited projects regarding objectives, approaches, and challenges – the main goal was to find synergies between the different mining projects, specially through networking. There were 6 main fields where the different projects were allocated: Intelligent Mining, Deep Sea Exploration and Mining, Sustainable Selective Low-Impact Mining, Re-opening abandoned mines in the EU, Real Time Exploration and Real Time Mining, Alternative Mining and, finally, Climate Services for Mining.

The one-day event was characterised by presentations from each of the invited projects regarding objectives, approaches, and challenges. The main goal was to find synergies between the different mining projects, specially through networking. There were 6 main fields where the different projects were allocated: Intelligent Mining, Deep Sea Exploration and Mining, Sustainable Selective Low-Impact Mining, Re-opening abandoned mines in the EU, Real Time Exploration and Real Time Mining, Alternative Mining and, finally, Climate Services for Mining.

The UNEXMIN and ¡VAMOS! projects were both part of the “Re-opening abandoned mines in the EU” session. Both projects are creating innovative solutions to explore and exploit underwater environments such as flooded underground mines and open-pit mines. With the use of the technologies, that are being developed by our projects, the re-opening of closed, abandoned mines is becoming a reality.

¡VAMOS! at the Mines and Technology conference, London

The Mines and Technology conference, together with the Mines and Money symposium, took place from the 27th to the 30th of November in the Business Design Centre in London. The conference addressed the most critical areas within the technology revolution that is happening in the mining sector. Senior decision makers from mining companies and technology providers alike shared their vision and innovation strategies and discussed the latest technological developments in the sector.

During the morning plenary and afternoon parallel sessions, a range of topics, from automation and enhanced drilling systems to data analytics and mobile technologies, were presented alongside with their respective safety, environmental and cost benefits.

From LPRC, Edine Bakker gave a presentation on the newly developed ¡VAMOS! mining technology and its potential benefits, which was received with much interest and enthusiasm by the audience. The overwhelmingly positive feedback on the presentation illustrates a general consensus on the positive impacts that the project might have once it is finished, as developments and testing in real life conditions are still ongoing.

Edine Bakker presenting the ¡VAMOS! project during the Mines and Technology conference

It is now up to the ¡VAMOS! project partners to define their future strategy to advance the technology to the next level.

INTRAW workshop with the Experts, Brussels

The INTRAW workshop with the Joint Panel of Experts (JPE) took place on the 8th of November in Brussels, associated to the Raw Materials Week 2017. The workshop was held in the very same room as the first Solvay Conference, in 1911, which had the presence of scientist like Einstein, Planck, Rutherford and Skłodowska-Curie, among others. High workshop prospects were to be expected with such history!

Solvay Conference, 1911

The INTRAW project is dedicated to foster cooperation between the EU and technologically advanced countries, or the so-called Reference Countries. This meeting was not an exception in pursuing such objective. The workshop was organized as part of the 2nd European Raw Materials Week, and the bulk of the LPRC team was present in the Brussels event. The aim of the LPRC-led workshop was to work out tangible cooperation opportunities between the EU and the five Reference Countries (Australia, Canada, South Africa, Japan and USA). The results can be translated as input to our ongoing deliverable: a report on cross-cutting synergies, emerging scenarios and their potential impact on international cooperation on raw materials.

The workshop started with an overview of the INTRAW project led by the coordinator, Vitor Correia, and after, our colleague Marco Martins introduced the workshop exercise. Within the workshop, the participants were divided into five groups, one for each of the Reference Countries, moderated by the country representative from the consortium and co-moderated by the LPRC members. The main driver for this exercise was to discuss a predefined list of factors, and plotting them on a chart (strength-weakness) considering both a specific Reference Country and the EU, as a basis for bilateral and/or multilateral cooperation opportunities in the field of mineral raw materials. In the end, the individual group results were introduced to the whole in a plenary session and discussed by all the participants. As a result of this interactive exercise, the groups identified the top 3 cooperation opportunities, on a bilateral and even multilateral basis between the EU and specific reference countries. The LPRC team is currently working on the results of this very fruitful workshop.

During the afternoon, the workshop participants stayed for a round table discussion, coorganised by the INTRAW and FORAM projects. The panelists, representatives from the EU, China, Japan and Canada, discussed the challenges on international cooperation on mineral raw materials.

All in all, it was a very fruitful workshop: our team is very proud of all the work!

LPRC at the Raw Materials Week 2017, Brussels

The second European Raw Materials Week was held in Brussels from the 6th to the 10th of November. This is a recent event, that intends to get together projects, parterns and personel related to the all the areas of raw materials to discuss on the most pressuring topics for the sector. As a team actively dealing with raw materials projects, LPRC was present during this very important forum.

Raw Materials Week 2017

The LPRC members have been present in many events during this week and those include: 1) the INTRAW project consortiun meeting, 2) the EU advanced mining country raw materials diplomacy dialogue conference, 3) the INTRAW Experts Workshop – which was organised by the LPRC team, 4) the Reconciling biodiversity protection and extractive activities conference, 5) the The EU Raw Materials Knowledge Base in support of EU raw materials policy, 6) the Prospecting secondary raw materials in the urban mine and mining wastes (ProSUM) conference and, finally, 7) the MINATURA2020 final conference.

During the week, a poster session was also occurring. There were 6 project posters where LPRC is an partner: UNEXMIN, ¡VAMOS!, CHPM2030, INTRAW, MINATURA 2020 and MICA. These projects that focus on exploration, exploitation and raw materials databases attracted a lot of attention to the Raw Materials Week participants – they fitted perfectly into the thematic.

Preparation of the RMW poster session with the UNEXMIN, INTRAW, MINATURA 2020, ¡VAMOS, CHPM2030 and MICA projects

Being present at this high-level conferences and workshops allowed the LPRC members to gain valuable insight on the issues, challenges and solutions that are linked to the raw materials sector, while also participating in the many discussions held in the many conferences.

We hope to participate again next year!

¡VAMOS! technology demonstration, Devon, UK

On the 24th of October the ¡VAMOS! consortium, Advisory Board members, and interested external parties were invited for a live demonstration of the ¡VAMOS! technology at the Imerys Minerals Ltd. test site in Lee Moor, Devon, UK. The 29 visitors were divided up in small groups and guided around the premises by representatives of project partners SMD Ltd., Damen Dredging Equipment and INESC TEC, who have been working on the various project components. Visitors were provided with PPE and safety instructions before they were taken by boat to the Launch and Recovery Vessel, where they could inspect the Mining Vehicle and witnessed the deployment and recovery of the vehicle. Back on shore, the visitors were given an overview of the functionality of ‘EVA’ – the Exploration VAMOS AUV, an automated underwater vehicle that is being used to assist in precise positioning, navigation and situational awareness of the Mining Vehicle and that can execute preliminary surveys of underwater mine sites.

¡VAMOS! machinery ready for the first test in real life

In the Control Unit and Data Centre, the visitors were shown the impressive virtual reality HMI, where all machinery is controlled and where real-time data on the operations is collected. Real-time data for grade control and mineralogical properties is collected by a LIBS – Laser Induced Breakdown Spectrometer, which was demonstrated and is being perfected for a wide range of commonly mined minerals.

During the day, ¡VAMOS! demonstrated a highly successful integration of different systems to be applied in underwater mining. The project team was optimistic about continuing the testing until the end of the week to advance even further towards the projects targets.

¡VAMOS! consortium, Advisory Board members and external visitors for the technology demonstration at Devon, UK

This was supported by the Advisory Board: “The consortium should be extremely proud of their efforts. What they have managed to achieve with the ¡VAMOS! System and its integration of new technologies is very impressive”, said Dr. Bramley Murton from UK’s National Oceanography Centre.

On the 31st of October the ¡VAMOS! Project was reviewed by European Commission representatives and an external reviewer. For LPRC, Edine Bakker presented the progress in Work Packages 1 and 6. The reviewers were positive about and impressed by the projects achievements so far and the projects’ management team is optimistic about entering the final stage of the project.

The next test will happen next year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the whole ¡VAMOS! technology will be once again tested in real environment!

UNEXMIN & ¡VAMOS! at the Real-Time Mining Conference, Amsterdam

During the 10th and 11th of October, both the UNEXMIN and ¡vamos! projects were present at the Real-Time Mining Conference, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The two projects offering research and innovation action solutions, had members from the consortia presenting talks to the audience regarding an overview of the work developed and present and future steps.

Real-Time Mining Conference kick-off

The Real-Time Mining conference brought together researchers from 4 EU-funded projects: SOLSA, Real-Time Mining, ¡vamos!, and UNEXMIN and external interested parties such as other project and industry participants. The main goal was to show what each project is working on and the different solutions to overcome the difficulties. The exchange of ideas and rising of synergies between different activities become a welcome reality after each presentation.

The conference kickstarted with the overview presentations of the four above mentioned Horizon2020 projects. From LPRC’s side, two members of the UNEXMIN and ¡vamos! consortia were present at the Real-Time Mining conference – they gave the overview of these respective projects.

¡vamos! and UNEXMIN received a lot of attention with their talks, which was reflected in the great amount of questions and further discussions, even during the breaks. The next sessions for the first and second days were dedicated to more specific talks regarding positioning and material tracking, automated material characterization, resource modelling and value of information, process optimization and, data management.

The Real-Time Mining conference was very successful in all aspects. For LPRC, it meant communicating the projects, raising awareness of the future technologies, finding new ideas and making valuable contacts for the future.