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With the future of mining in Sudbury dependent on finding ways to extract ore from deeper underground, a local invention offers hope that it can, one day, be done safer, cheaper and more quickly.
The Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization – CAMIRO – is developing a spray-on liner that would take the place of the shotcrete and screens traditionally used to hold underground tunnels in place. Four millimetres of the bright orange, polyurethane compound would be sprayed onto the walls and ceilings underground by a robot adapted for mining use from the automotive industry.
CAMIRO is a Sudbury-based not-for-profit organization run by the mining industry to manage collaborative mining research. Originally built to spray paint onto cars, the $60,000 robots would be upgraded with scanning and other software so it could coat the area with the liner without any humans being present.
MTI Inc. of Sudbury has been given the job of coming up with a carrier for the robot, which is currently transported using a scoop tram. Charles Graham, managing director of CAMIRO, said the liner has several potential advantages over current practices. Unlike shotcrete, the polyurethane liner is flexible.