In Europe, it is estimated that there are 30,000 closed mine sites and many of these may have considerable amounts of essential raw materials. These leftover minerals usually are the ones that were disregarded during the operational life of a mine. It is a usual symptom of mining: the mines are closed not because of mineral depletion, but because of economical and technological constraints. Today, however, it could be feasible to explore the minerals that were left behind and that may now become essential resources for the European raw materials’ market pool. Many of these closed mines are now flooded and the last piece of information of their status and layout is decades or more than a hundred years old. The complex underground layout, topology and geometry of most underground mines, make it impossible to do any surveying by conventional or remotely controlled equipment. One of these examples is the usage of human divers, which can prove unfruitful and even lethal in harsh deep mine conditions.
The main objective in UNEXMIN is to develop a fully autonomous multi-platform Robotic Explorer, that will use non-invasive methods for 3D mine mapping on flooded and deep mines, otherwise inaccessible, in Europe. UNEXMIN’s pioneer developing technique could open new exploration scenarios for European abandoned mines, with the help from actualized data that cannot be accessed any other way.
Specific goals of the UNEXMIN project are as follows:
- Design and build a multi-platform Robotic Explorer for autonomous 3D mapping of flooded deep mines
- Demonstrate the operation of the prototype at a set of representative pilot sites
- Develop an open access platform for technology transfer and further development between stakeholders
- Develop a research roadmap in support of further technology development
- Develop commercial services for exploiting the technology
These major objectives will be supported by a science and technology merger of deep sea robotics solutions with user’s requirements from the mining industry. They will lead to a fine-tuning of UX-1 so that the novel developed technology could best serve end-users.