UNEXMIN: An autonomous underwater explorer for flooded mines

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UNEXMIN Consortium meeting, Budapest

LPRC member Luís Lopes recently participated in the UNEXMIN Consortium workshop in Budapest, on the 24 and 25th of June, where the UNEXMIN partners discussed the current state of the technology, the final steps of the UNEXMIN project and the vision and objectives for the future. Discussion and preparation for the field trials at the Molnár János Cave also took place.

The two days event started with discussion on the navigation and autonomy features of the UX-1 robot. Here the technical teams discussed the state-of-the-art of the UNEXMIN technology and the improvements that they need to see to better manage navigation and the crucial autonomy component. After this session, the team focused on the geoscientific evaluation that will need to arise from the data obtained during the different trials. Providing relevant geoscientific data, that cannot be obtained in any other way is the motto of the UNEXMIN technology – the one item that will prove the technology to be of use. The first day finished with a short discussion on the final UNEXMIN conference and its planning – registration is open and free for everyone: https://www.unexmin.eu/unexmin-final-conference/

The second day began with a presentation on the remaining project deliverables, and it continued with interactive debate on future possibilities for the innovative solution. In the afternoon the partners travelled to the Molnár János cave, place where the next and final UNEXMIN field trial will take place, and started the preparations of the testing.

LPRC contributed to discussions on the geosientific data evalutation and preparation as well as relevant input for the remaining period of the UNEXMIN project (until 31st of October) and the future applications of the technology in the market. Glad to be active part in this project!

UNEXMIN presented at AIMS 2019, Aachen

On the 13th and 14th of June, during the AIMS – Aachen International Mining Symposia – 2019, Luís Lopes, from LPRC, gave a talk about the development and current state of the UNEXMIN, under the Second International Conference “Mines of the future”. UNEXMIN is developing an exploration technology that might be part of a vision where mines are innovative and sustainable.

The two days event counted with numerous personnel from academia, research, industry and governmental bodies, all interested or involved in mining and related topics. There has been a number of keynote talks and presentations, divided into sessions and a panel discussion, fostering dialogue on the different emerging topics.

The first day started with three keynote talks about the sustainability of mining in the present and future, and on the current best practices. Six main sessions succeeded, with 4 to 5 presentations per session:

  1. Science: Tailings & Mine wastes
  2. Technology: Digitalisation
  3. Science: Methods & measurements
  4. Science: Mining challenges
  5. Technology: Equipment & methods
  6. Innovation: Modelling

The UNEXMIN project was introduced under session 5 – Technology: Equipment & methods, by Luís Lopes: “Re-exploring flooded mines: the UNEXMIN unique robotic solution”. The talk was well received by the audience, which showed big interest in a number of questions that focused on the technology as well as on policy aspects on its application.

On the second day, two parallel sessions kickstarted discussions: 1) Technology: Resource extraction and 2) Technology: New systems. A unique session on “Responsibility: Engagement and closure” ended the talks of the conference, right before the final panel discussion on the “Mines of the future need to be different from those of today!”.

Posters sessions and exhibitions of mining companies completed a very innovative and interesting event. The network possibilities with partners from different areas of the globe and the raw materials value chain were also very welcome.

It was a great pleasure that LPRC and the UNEXMIN project was represented in an important discussions about the present and future of mining activities, spanning through all the value chain, from exploration to exploitation and even to mine closure and remediation.

LPRC is actively taking part of a change that is already ongoing!

UNEXMIN presented at EGU 2019, Vienna

The UNEXMIN project was presented by LPRC’s member Luís Lopes during this year’s EGU General Assembly meeting, held in Vienna, between the 7th and 12th of April. The overview of the current and future state of the project was presented to a geoscientists audience, interested in  the future state of the mineral exploration sector.

UNEXMIN’s presentation on EGU 2019 was inserted on the session ITS2.2/ERE4.4 – The New Roadmap for Mineral Exploration: Challenges and Innovative approachesLuís Lopes’s talk on UNEXMIN, entitled “UNEXMIN: an innovative approach for mineral exploration in flooded mines “, focused on the project’s innovative solution that aims to contribute to mineral exploration and mapping of flooded underground mines in Europe, without major costs or associated risks. The past, present and future of the technology were covered within the discussed topics that included the development of the robotic system and the field trials.

During the presentation on the project, there were a roomful of 60 people present. A session on Questions and Answers after the talk provided more input on the project to the session participants. It should be noted that the presentation had a positive and intriguiging effect on the audience: a great part showed interest either by making questions during the Q&A session or by directly talking to the presenter after the talk.

Luís Lopes also assisted to the debate on “Science in policymaking: Who is responsible?” and discussed poster presentations on new innovative approaches in mining with their authors during the poster session. LPRC’s line of work directly shines under geoscience and policy making, and therefore, this was a good opportunity to learn about the state of play in these fields.

Link to the debate on “Science in policymaking” debate: https://client.cntv.at/egu2019/gdb2

The UNEXMIN project was communicated and disseminated with LPRC’s efforts once again!

UNEXMIN at the 2nd International Real Time Mining Conference

The UNEXMIN project co-organized the 2nd edition of the Real Time Mining Conference, in Freiberg, Germany, on the 26 and 27 of March 2019. UNEXMIN worked together with the Real Time Mining and SOLSA projects – all Horizon 2020 raw materials funded – to bring together experts from raw materials exploration fields to debate the future of mining exploration.

The first day of the conference included a demonstration of the Real Time Mining project outputs – both on the field and  on the conference room. First, participants had the chance to go inside the Reiche Zeche mine, in Freiberg, where the Real Time Mining project personnel showed and explained their project’s activities. After the visit, participants were invited to learn more about the RTM project’s outputs, results and findings. A series of short presentations introduced each of the Work Packages.

The actual 2nd International Real Time Mining Conference was held on the second day, the 27th of March. The conference brought together technical and overview talks from the UNEXMIN, Real Time Mining and SOLSA projects, and presentations from experts of the mining industry. The contribution from research, education and industry showed by the presentations made an overall picture of the current state and advancements of mining exploration and provided a look into the future.

In total, the UNEXMIN personnel gave four talks during this day. From LPRC, Luís Lopes presented the current state of the UNEXMIN project, as of March 2019. The presentation was well received and gathered a lot of interest in the project and to the more technical presentations that followed. Then throughout the day, presentations on the multispectral camera and its data, 3D mine mapping tools and findings of the field trials, were given by partners University of Miskolc, INESC TEC and Geological Survey of Slovenia, respectively.

Download the UNEXMIN presentation – Project Overview – Real Time Mining conference (March 2019)

By the end of the conference the UNEXMIN team left with a sense of duty accomplished. The project was communicated to a wide range of stakeholders and interest in the project was, once more, raised. LPRC was proud to present the UNEXMIN project and to contribute to discussions towards a more innovative European raw materials future.

UNEXMIN present at the EU Industry Days 2019, Brussels

The UNEXMIN project was present at the EU Industry Days 2019 in Brussels. The event, during the 5th and 6th of February, brought together many stakeholders from the most diverse industrial sectors within Europe and beyond, also including researchers and governmental bodies. Some European funded projects were invited to showcase their innovations and impact in the EU industry landscape. This was the case for UNEXMIN.

During both days of the event the UNEXMIN project booth conveyed a lot of interest from the participants that visited the exhibition area. The UNEXMIN stand counted with three Consortium partner and one robot, the first UX-1 prototype. From La Palma Research Centre, Luís Lopes was present to help in communicating the project to a very diverse audience.

The presence of the UX-1 robot at the UNEXMIN stand surely invited people to come and discuss about the robot itself and the project overall. Past, present and future developments were among discussions as were some future commercial perspectives where the innovative UNEXMIN technology can be applied.

In the end of the event, the UNEXMIN team felt that this was a great opportunity to disseminate and communicate about the project and was very glad to be invited to such an important event. Mission accomplished!

 

UNEXMIN meeting, La Palma

La Palma Research Centre recently had the pleasure to receive the UNEXMIN partners in the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Spain. The meeting that brought together partners to discuss the actual state of UNEXMIN and the future of the project was held on the 10 and 11th of January.

The development of the multi-robotic platform was also discussed and a schedule for the production and assembly of the two other robots was defined. This is an important step in order to guarantee that the UNEXMIN team will have the robots ready in time for the field trials.

The first day started with discussions among the partners about the current state of the trials. Both the data analysis from the previous tests (Idrija and Kaatiala) as well as the two next ones (Urgeiriça and Ecton) were discussed. This last point was of particular importance since the team will have two and three robots in Urgeiriça and Ecton, respectively, which will make the trials ever more complex. Therefore, proper planning is crucial and that was one of the reasons why this meeting was held now. The Urgeiriça trial is planned for March/April, while UNEXMIN will go to Ecton in May.

The other major point of the meeting – on the second day – was the discussion of the short, medium and long-term future of the UNEXMIN technology. Discussions focussed on how to better serve the market with this innovative technology that will result in the exploration and 3D mapping of underground flooded mines and other underwater environments.

Also, on the second day, as an interactive exercise, the partners worked together on a mindmapping exercise that was organised by LPRC. The results from this mindmap as well as from other foresight tools will be input for the research roadmap of the UNEXMIN technology.

This was a successful meeting where all the partners contributed with their views and knowledge and from where a bright future for UNEXMIN could be created!

From LPRC, it was a pleasure to host this meeting and we hope to see our UNEXMIN partners there in a future opportunity.

UNEXMIN Project Partners meeting, Bled

The first UNEXMIN consortium meeting of 2018 took place during the 31st of January and 1st of February in Bled, Slovenia. The main points of discussions included the current and future developments of the UX-1 robot and the preparations for the first trial at the Kaatiala mine, Finland, in June.

The first meeting day started with a revision and update of the work developed by the project partners. In the afternoon, the UNEXMIN consortium and advisory board members – personnel with useful experience in the fields if robotics and raw materials – were separated into advisory meetings and technical UX-1 discussions. The day ended with the planning for the assembly of the UX-1 robot – to happen in Porto, Portugal, during April.

UNEXMIN project partners at the first 2018 consortium meeting

The second day was place to the further technical discussions for the present and future developments of the technology. Preparations for the first pilot trial in the Kaatiala mine in Finland were also agreed upon so everything can work properly. Following, there was a interactive discussion on exploitation measures for the UNEXMIN technology.

Preparations for the Kaatiala mine pilot test

Exploitation discussion for UNEXMIN technology

The consortium is working hard to develop the robotic system that will be able to explore and map flooded mines and other underwater environments!

¡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.

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.

Events

UNEXMIN Final Conference, Brussels

This event will provide a unique opportunity to discuss the UNEXMIN project overall and its specific fields of work, including minerals exploration, raw materials exploitation, and robotics and ICT development, with cross-cutting discussions that aim at demonstrating the impact that UNEXMIN can have on the European landscape.

The programme sessions are: 1) setting the political context: the future of mining in Europe, 2) Raw materials and mining, 3) robotics and functionalities and 4) round table – mineral exploration: future and long-term initiatives.

Registration to the event is free of charge: https://www.unexmin.eu/unexmin-final-conference/#tab-id-5