Underground Robots: How Robotics Is Changing the Mining Industry – by Adityarup Chakravorty (Earth & Space Science News – May 13, 2019)

Earth & Space Science News

December 2018, Slovenia: A team of scientists, engineers, and technicians from a consortium of universities, organizations, and companies across Europe boldly prepare a robot to go where no robot has gone before.

The robot, UX-1, is prepped to enter and navigate the narrow, flooded passages of the Idrija mercury mine in western Slovenia. It’s a field test—UX-1’s second—to determine whether the robot can autonomously navigate the dark, murky waters of the closed mine and use its multispectral camera to recognize different minerals.

UX-1’s creators hope that one day it will be part of a multirobot platform called the Underwater Explorer for Flooded Mines (UNEXMiN) and be used for “non-invasive [and] autonomous 3D mine mapping for gathering valuable geological, mineralogical and spatial information…that cannot be obtained by any other ways, without major costs,” according to the project’s website.

UNEXMiN is just one example of several efforts across Europe, and the world, to develop robots and related technology for use in and around mines to perform a variety of tasks—from mapping flooded passages to analyzing mineral concentrations and from increasing operational efficiency to ensuring the safety of people who work in the mining industry.

Exploring Flooded Mines for “Rare” Minerals

Part of the UNEXMiN project includes identifying closed or abandoned mines in Europe that are now flooded. So far, the Inventory of Flooded Mines lists more than 8,500 such sites. A major thrust for exploring these flooded mines comes from the European Union’s policy on raw materials, which has a goal of “fostering [a] sustainable supply of raw materials from European sources.”

For the rest of this article: https://eos.org/features/underground-robots-how-robotics-is-changing-the-mining-industry