The multi-robot platform and all its components are currently being designed, built and will later be tested and validated in real-life conditions in four mine test sites, with increasingly harder conditions in mine layout and geometry.
The mines that will be used as test sites during the project lifetime are (in temporal and difficulty order):
Kaatiala Mine, Finland (June 2018)
Idrija Mine, Slovenia (September 2018)
Urgeiriça Mine, Portugal (early-2019)
Ecton Mine, UK (mid-2019)
Ecton Mine, that will represent the last test site for UX-1, will result in a resurveying of the flooded mine floors that nobody has seen for more than 160 years and that will bring important geological information as well as documentation from important mining heritage lost for a long time.
Kaatiala Mine, Finland
The Kaatiala mine will host the first real environment trial for the UX-1 robot and the UNEXMIN technology. This site was chosen due to its characteristics: open large lake with mine structures and shallow water – perfect for the first test. The consortium will be able to test robotic functions and components in a simple environment, making room for modifications and improvements in software/hardware.
Kaatiala, known for its big pegmatitic deposits, once hosted big mining quartz and feldspar operations in Europe – it all started in 1942. The main rock types of the area are gneisses and mica schists of sedimentic origin, where pegmatitic material has been intruded into the base rock. Feldspar and quartz are the essential minerals with variations of tourmaline, mica, beryl, lepidolite, amongst others.
Idrija Mine, Slovenia
Idrija will host the second UNEXMIN field trial in September 2018. At this time, the UX-1 robot should be ready, after improvements from the Kaatiala test, to show its capabilities: movement, control and 3D mapping to explore shafts and horizontal submerged tunnels. The Idrija mine is now considered as an UNESCO Heritage site – this makes it vital that the UNEXMIN technology proves to be non-contact, as the mine cannot be damaged in any way.
Explored between 1490 and 1995 for mercury, the mine hosted globally important hydrothermal ore deposits of cinnabar and native mercury, present in sedimentary rocks. In total, around 700km of tunnels were excavated during its lifetime.
Urgeiriça Mine, Portugal
In the beginning of 2019 the UNEXMIN partners will visit Portugal for the 3rd trial at the Urgeiriça mine in Portugal. The maximum depth of the mine is 450m, which will allow the robot and its equipment, to be tested in harsh conditions including high pressure and acidic water.
Urgeiriça mine was historically important due to the exploitation of uranium and radium ores between 1913 and 1995.
Ecton Mine, United Kingdom
The last UNEXMIN trial will be held in the Ecton Mine, near Manchester, by mid-2019. Here, a re-survey of the total flooded area of the mine is expected. Ecton is now considered as a National Heritage monument and similar to the Idrija Mine, the technology will need to be non-damaging.
Ecton was mined for copper but also with important quantities of lead and zinc. The mine was active from the 1500BC to 1880AD. The mineralization is hosted in limestones.
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