After two weeks of trials, that showed some light on the exploration on parts of the flooded Ecton mine (see results of the first and second weeks), the UNEXMIN team went into the final stage of this field trial with high hopes and confidence on its robotic system. For this final week the summary of major accomplishments is the following:

  • 27th of May (Monday): The Pipe shaft was partially explored for the first time. The UX-1a robot dived to 57.7m depth and was able to map a huge upper mineralised pipe cavity from 17 to 57m with its sonar. A horizontal passage at the bottom was identified but not explored. The pipe shaft is important since it intersects most of Ecton’s copper orebodies mined in the past.
  • 28st of May (Tuesday): During this day two different shafts were explored: the Pumping shaft with UX-1b and the Pipe shaft with UX-1a. On the first, the robot dived until an opening at the 90m mark, it had to return to the surface due to lack of enough energy to keep exploring. The dive on the Pipe was done until 63.7m; a very large opening was mapped with sonar. New openings were again found but not explored.
  • 29nd of May (Wednesday): On the Winding shaft, a mine shaft not yet explored, UX-1a managed to dive to the maximum depth of 112m; the team learned that the bottom of the shaft was blocked by rubble. The robot also discovered new entrances into pipe workings, not yet explored. UNEXMIN’s team also succeeded in closing loops with dives from both the other two launch sites (the Pipe and Pumping shafts).  This it will make it possible to create a full mine map of all areas yet explored by the UX-1 system during the three weeks of underwater exploration.
  • 30rd of May (Thursday): Wrapping up and cleaning the site. The robots were removed from the mine and packed for shipping back to INESC TEC’s workshop, in Portugal, where the robots will be re-calibrated, repaired and improved in the upcoming weeks.

During this last week of trials, the major achievement was the exploration of the three main shafts of Ecton mine – in line with the desire of our internal stakeholders, the Ecton Mine Education Trust. The data obtained by the UNEXMIN team will now be processed to later be used by EMET for education and cultural purposes in archeology and mining related activities.

Now that the Ecton trials are over, it is time to put things together and analyse the data. The next stop is Budapest, where the UNEXMIN team will go to explore and map the Molnár János cave. This will be the first time that the UNEXMIN robotic system will be tested in the exploration of a cave system. Fingers crossed!

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Photo credits: Edit Babinszki