The UNEXUP project, funded under EIT RawMaterials, is a direct continuation of the Horizon 2020 UNEXMIN project. While in UNEXMIN efforts were made towards the design, preparation and testing of an innovative exploration technology for underground flooded mines, in UNEXUP the objective is to launch the UNEXMIN technology into the market, while further improving the system’s hardware, software and capabilities. A real service-to-client approach will be demonstrated, supporting mineral exploration and mine surveying efforts in Europe with unique data from flooded environments.
In Europe, it is estimated that there are around 30,000 closed mine sites. Many of these still contain valuable mineral resources, which were not exploited due to different economic scenarios. However, most 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.
As Europe is becoming under increased pressure due to its near-complete dependency on the import of mineral raw materials, there is increased interest for re-opening some of the abandoned mine sites. In this respect, abandoned mines represent significant interest due to the fact that many of them were developed in the past to extract commodities that are nowadays considered “critical minerals”, or likely to become critical in the near future.
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 robot’s ability to gather high-quality and high-resolution geological, mineralogical and topological information from currently inaccessible mine sites will increase the knowledge of mineral deposits in Europe, whilst decreasing exploration costs – such as the number of deep exploration drills needed. This will potentially become a game changing exploration technology in the mining community, where the battle for resources is ever increasing.