Hydrogeological side note

The Canary Islands host many natural phenomena. One of them is a significant part of the hydrogeological system which provides drinking water for the islands’ inhabitants and irrigation for the land. The annual precipitation in La Palma can vary between 300 and 1400 mm (MC Cabrera) depending on the altitude. However, a significant source of groundwater comes from “horizontal rain,” a process which involves Canary pine trees (Pinus canariensis), low altitude clouds, porous tuff and impermeable dykes. When humid air from the ocean moves over the volcanic mountains of La Palma, it is forced to ascend to a higher altitude by the topography of the island. As it cools and its pressure decreases, at a certain height water precipitates and cloud is formed. Since the air is ascending along the mountain, the clouds are often formed at ground level and flow though the Canary pine tree forests as they continue to rise. The type of pine tree endemic to the island typically has needles as long as 15 cm long. Water droplets are captured on these needles from the rising clouds, fall onto the ground and enter to the subsurface. A volcanic island, La Palma is not lacking in layers of porous tuff and igneous dykes. Water can easily flow through these tuff layers and collect in reservoirs, which are then trapped and sealed by impermeable dykes. These water bodies can be accessed and drained by horizontal tunnels, or water mines, as the locals call them.

It is also interesting that Canary pine trees have a thick bark, saturated with resin, both characteristics that help them to survive forest fires and regrow.

360 degree view under a Canary pine tree (drag and move the photo to look around).

Internship Opening!

We are looking for a new enthusiastic social media-savvy colleague! Get an inside scope on what it is like to work on international EU research projects in our science centre located in the Canary Islands. Our work focusses on various aspects of earth sciences, addressing both applied and basic research related to earth systems, resources and raw materials.

Your tasks will mainly concern preparing and creating visual content for our reports and the communication of our research results through our websites and social media pages. We would like you to set up a social media policy and start a blog for the company. This involves doing background research on science communication techniques and actively seeking interesting technical content to write about, to generate maximum interest. You will need to communicate your findings clearly internally with your colleagues during team meetings and in written reports as well as take up and translate your colleagues ideas to the outside world. We are a small company with a dynamic and flexible work environment, so you will have a chance to get involved in many of our other daily tasks and activities as well. Our wide range of research topics and activities requires being able to learning by doing, to work independently and to have a positive can-do attitude. We also want to learn from you!
We are looking for:
A student or recent graduate in geosciences or a related field, with an interest in science communication and visualizations techniques.

PLUS – Are you?
• A virtuoso in the English language
• An excellent Communicator
• A curious Creative mind
• A bit of Technology geek
• A Social media native

Does this sound like you and are you ready for a little adventure? We are offering a 3 month unpaid internship with the possibility of a 3 month extension. There might be a possibility for full-time employment afterwards. All work-related expenses like travel and accommodation will be covered and arranged for you. We would prefer you to start in September. You will be working from our office in the centre of Los Llanos de Aridane on La Palma, Canary Islands – a few minutes away from a café with the best hand-made ice-cream in the world*. On “the beautiful island” you are never more than a few kilometres away from the beach and the mountains. The internship might also involve possible work trips to our soon to be opened branch in Brussels and possible other locations in Europe.
For more information or to express your interest, send your CV and a short motivation letter to: career@lapalmacentre.eu

* According to our Dutch team leader. Italians might disagree.

UNEXMIN Progress Meeting in Porto

From the 4th to the 6th of July, the UNEXMIN Consortium got together to discuss UX-1’s development. The meeting was hosted in Porto, Portugal by INESC TEC. LPRC was represented by Luis Lopes.

The first day was dedicated to a review of the state of the project, which began 17 months ago. The review was conducted work package by work package and finished with WP8 – Dissemination, Technology Transfer and Exploitation, where LPRC has a big role. At the end of the day, everyone was satisfied with the results achieved and most importantly, with the rapid development of the UX-1 robot’s software and hardware.

During the second day, UNEXMIN partners presented their work to the Project Officer and to external expert reviewers. Following the review, INESC TEC personnel showed the Consortium their robotics lab, where they are carrying out their work within the framework of UNEXMIN.

Water tank at INESC TEC laboratory, used for testing

The final day was reserved for technical discussions regarding UX-1. Developing such a new advanced technology is complicated and needs constant effort from all partners in order to ensure good project growth.

The UNEXMIN team

MICA consortium meeting – Paris, France

The most recent MICA project consortium meeting took place at the Paris FIAP Jean Monnet Congress Center from the 13th until the 15th of June.

The first day covered progress meetings for the different work packages (seven in total) in the project as well as a management board meeting. In the WP5 ‘Minerals Policy Context’ meeting, the work package where LPRC contributes the most, Marco Martins briefed on the Foresight Methodology Workshop held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on May, 2017, and how its outputs can help the work developed within the work package and the MICA Platform (EU-RMICP) – the ultimate goal of the MICA project. Additionally, case studies developed by the partners for the MICA Project on Economic and Industrial Ecology Methods in the Raw Materials context were presented.

Discussion sessions held regarding WP5 (Minerals Policy Context)

On the second day, a project plenary session was held, providing an overview of the project’s progress for each work package to all the audience and further discussions were held. The advisory board members that were present in this consortium meeting had an opportunity to make comments and suggestions, which are always welcome.

The last day brought external experts into the consortium mix to make presentations on past experiences regarding ‘Material Flow Accounting and Data’ gathering. The meeting ended in the afternoon with an exercise to develop approaches (“flowsheets”) for answering specific stakeholders’ questions by referring to specific data and methods, which in turn will support the development of the platform (EU-RMICP).

The ‘flowsheets’ exercise in action

The MICA Project ends in the beginning of 2018 and everyone, including LPRC with focus on WP5, is making an effort to achieve great results with the new MICA platform.

La Palma Research Centre organizes a foresight workshop

La Palma Research Centre hosted the MICA project’s ‘Raw Materials Foresight Methodology Workshop’ on the 10th and 11th of May at Hotel Parque in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias.

The main objective of the workshop was to frame the MICA foresight methodology recommendations in a minerals policy context on a 2030-2050 timescale. Workshop participants included MICA project partners and a number of external experts on both foresight and raw materials.

On the first day of the meeting, the external experts and the research centre team presented examples of foresight case-studies in both raw materials and other fields. These presentations were successful in generating broad-ranging discussion on foresight methods utilised in the case studies, common constraints on the foresight process, and how to establish more accurate proxies during foresight evaluation.

General analysis and discussion on foresight methodologies held by the participants

The second day began with a review and summary of the findings of the first day. Subsequently, there were further presentations and discussions aimed at establishing a common vision and recommendations for EU minerals policy and the upcoming MICA ‘Raw Materials Intelligence Platform’ (EU-RMICP), which is due to be launched in January 2018.

Workshop participants discussing the future of the mineral raw materials sector

The workshop ended on a positive note after a final group exercise which took place at Columbus House. During this session, workshop participants explored potential pathways for the future of the mineral raw materials sector. The experts also provided recommendations on how foresight studies could aid EU-RMICP users in understanding how different factors may influence the sector over longer time horizons.

MICA partners and the external experts that got together to discuss foresight methodologies for the raw materials sector

During the workshop, recommendations were agreed upon to improve EU-RMICP functionality by answering stakeholders’ needs with custom foresight approaches. The group also gave their ideas on how to enhance the development of the MICA ‘Raw Materials Foresight Guide’, which will be released in August 2017.

La Palma Research Centre presents multiple projects at EGU 2017

The 2017 European Geoscience Union’s (EGU) General Assembly took place in Vienna at the Austria Centre from Monday the 24th to Friday the 28th of April. At this large geoscientific gathering, at which over 12,000 participants from academia and industry attended, La Palma Research Centre colleagues took the opportunity to exhibit and present six research and innovation projects.

On the first day of the conference, Cameron Sword opened the Energy, Resources and Environment session with an oral presentation on the European Commission’s Horizon2020 co-funded ¡VAMOS! (Viable Alternative Mine Operating System) project. During the 15 minute presentation,  Cameron explained the overall concept and technological components of ¡VAMOS!, its vision for a future of cost-efficient low-impact European mine excavation, and the results of the project to date. After the presentation, multiple questions from the audience were answered, whilst a stimulating debate ensued on the functionality of the system components.

Cameron Sword narrates an interactive video showing the operation of ¡VAMOS!

Immediately following the ¡VAMOS! presentation, Luís Lopes gave a detailed and highly technical presentation on UNEXMIN (Underwater Explorer for Flooded Mines) – a related EC H2020 project in which mining and robotics scientists are collaborating to create a world-first autonomous underwater mapping robot for use in flooded mines. Luís’ UNEXMIN presentation was highlighted as a ‘significant interest’ topic for the EGU 2017 conference, being selected as one of the most interesting to attend during the week-long conference.

Luís Lopes delves into the details of UNEXMIN during his presentation at the ERE1.1 session

Then, following an engaging presentation on the INTRAW (International Observatory for Raw Materials) project by Chris Keane from the American Geosciences Institute, LPRC’s colleague, Marco Martins gave an insightful talk on foresight methodology and raw materials case studies. Marco’s presentation focussed on work done during the ongoing MICA (Mineral Intelligence Capacity Analysis) project, including a review of data and stakeholders needs in the field of raw materials.

Marco Martins outlines the nature of the foresight case-study data used during the MICA project

As a bonus presentation during the morning ERE session, Tamás Miklovicz gave an ad hoc talk on the new H2020 CHPM2030 (Combined Heat, Power and Metal extraction) project. Concluding with an intriguing and extensive discussion from an engaged and interested audience, Tamás proceeded to hold an open poster session on Thursday afternoon on this innovative combined geothermal energy/mineral-extraction project.

Tamás Miklovicz comfortably explains CHPM to just one of many similar interested onlookers in the main hall at the Austria Centre during EGU2017

Also presented in the main hall on Thursday were the KINDRA (Knowledge Inventory for Hydrogeology Research) and La Noche de los Volcanes projects. Cseko Adrienn explained the purpose and details of the KINDRA project and the recent opening of its signature EIGR (European Inventory on Groundwater Research), whilst Ariadna Ortega took charge of La Noche de los Volcanes by explaining the statistical results and main outcomes of this four-year geoscience outreach project which was comprised of three separate sub-projects at various locations across the seven Canary Islands.

The KINDRA poster explaining the newly launched European Inventory on Groundwater Research

In short, the EGU General Assembly was a successful week of company and project dissemination and promotion, and LPRC looks forward to attending the conference again next year in Austria!

3rd CHPM2030 consortium meeting, Keyworth, UK

The 3rd CHPM2030 consortium meeting was hosted by the British Geological Survey on the 28th and 29th of March in Keyworth, England. The objective of the meeting was to share and discuss recent developments in Work Package (WP) 2 – Laboratory experiments and orebody investigations, and WP3 – Metal recovery and electrochemical power generation. The meeting also provided opportunity to discuss project management issues, dissemination activities, recap the completed WP1 – Methodology framework definition, and take a glimpse at the upcoming WP4 – Systems integration, WP5 – Integrated sustainability assessment and WP6 – Roadmapping and Preparation for Pilots,  

Group picture at the Geological Walkway

The meeting started with a welcome and presentation from Jon Busby (BGS) on the geology and geothermal settings of England. In the morning, the project coordination team from Miskolc (Éva Hartai, Tamas Madarász and Aranka Földessy) shared project management issues, reporting duties and a recap on the completed WP1. The rest of the day was focussed on WP2 and WP3. Both work packages are ongoing and consist of plenty of laboratory experiments and results to discuss. In WP2, BGS has been investigating the fluid-orebody sample interaction, integrated reservoir management, and metal content mobilisation with nanoparticles. In WP3 the focus was on solutions on how to recover metals using high temperature and pressure geothermal fluid electrolysis by a self developed reactor from KU Leuven. WP3 presentations also covered initial findings from metal recovery from geothermal brines from Iceland, Cornwall and Belgium. The last topic in the session was the potential use of salinity gradient power from pre-treated geothermal fluids with reverse electrodialysis. The day finished with a comprehensive talk on the geology and history of mining in Southwest England by Chris Yeomans (BGS).

During day 2, the upcoming work packages were introduced by the work package leaders: WP4 – Systems integration, WP5 – Integrated sustainability assessment, and WP6 – Roadmapping and Preparation for Pilots. During the afternoon WP7 – Dissemination and WP8 – Project management were also discussed, during which Lisa Delmoitiez (EFG) shared dissemination insights on the project website, brochures, social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and more.

The consortium visited the state-of-the-art laboratories at BGS (SEM and hydrothermal laboratories) where the WP2 experiments are running. The partners also took part in a guided tour along the Geological Walkway, covering geological ages with rocks from across Great Britain.

Annual ¡VAMOS! Partners’ Forum meeting held in Porto

LPRC colleagues Cameron, Edine and Luís attended a recent ¡VAMOS! meeting held at project robotics-developer INESC’s Porto facilities on the 29th and 30th of March. The purpose of the meeting was to hold the annual Partners’ Forum (PF) meeting, which was supplemented with an Advisory Board (AB) review meeting.

On the first day of the meeting, attendees divided themselves amongst two separate workshops to discuss progress on Work Packages 1 & 6, Dissemination, and Market Uptake, and Work Packages 3 & 4, System Construction, and Navigation and Awareness.

In the afternoon, both groups reconvened to attend a meeting on Work Package 5, Field Testing. During this session, the schedule and management of field-tests, site calibration and local assembly of components, and the training of personnel and site-safety were discussed and agreed upon. This careful and detailed planning is to ensure that the field tests in Devon, UK (October 2017) and in Vares, Bosnia (June 2018) will be conducted without avoidable setbacks or injury to staff.

¡VAMOS! partners attend the WP5 Field Testing workshop

The current build-status of the ¡VAMOS! mining vehicle at SMD in Newcastle.

In the morning of the second day, external Advisory Board members joined the consortium to conduct an iterative review of all project work packages 1 to 7. LPRC colleagues Edine and Cameron presented Work Package 1 and Work Package 6. After this full project review, a summary and review of project risks was conducted by Mr Jeroen van der Linden of Damen Dredging.

In the afternoon the partners toured the INESC robotics lab, where INESC partners are developing many subsea robotics technologies for ¡VAMOS! and other European projects. After this informative visit, the Advisory Board and Work Package leaders met for the final event of the two-day workshop: the Advisory Board review session. During this session, the Advisory Board put forth their critiques of various aspects of the project, and provided their insight into the technology and the developments per work package.

L-R: Cameron Sword (LPRC), Eduardo Silva (INESC), Bramley Murton (AB), Edine Bakker (LPRC), Glen Jones (AB).

Foreground (L-R): Mike Buxton (AB), Stef Kapusniak (Technical Manager), Jeroen van der Linden (Risk Manager).

The ¡VAMOS! project is now entering the final stages of the construction of all technical equipment. The consortium is on schedule in all project matters, and is looking forward to the first field tests in Southwest England this October.