The European Union (EU) has agreed to fund a project through its Horizon 2020 program looking into the development of a “bio-inspired, modular and reconfigurable robot-miner” for small and difficult to access underground mineral deposits.
The 48-month ROBOMINERS project held its kick-off meeting in Madrid, Spain, on June 13-14, 2019.
The project has been set up with the long-term strategic objective to facilitate EU access to raw materials – including those considered strategic or critical for the global energy transition – from domestic resources. This is all in an effort to decrease the EU’s import dependency.
ROBOMINERS’ approach combines the creation of a new mining ecosystem with novel ideas from other sectors, in particular the inclusion of disruptive concepts from robotics, the European Commission said.
“The use of the robot miner will especially be relevant for mineral deposits that are small or difficult to access,” it said. “This covers both abandoned, nowadays flooded mines, that are not accessible anymore for conventional mining techniques, or places that have formerly been explored but whose exploitation was considered as uneconomic due to the small size of the deposits or the difficulty to access them.”
Within the project duration, the consortium aims to:
- Construct a fully functional modular robot miner prototype following a bio-inspired design, capable of operating, navigating and performing selective mining in a flooded underground environment;
- Design a mining ecosystem of expected future upstream/downstream raw materials processes via simulations, modelling and virtual prototyping;
- Validate all key functions of the robot-miner to a Technology Readiness Level 4, and;
- Use the prototypes to study and advance future research challenges concerning scalability, resilience, re-configurability, self-repair, collective behaviour, operation in harsh environments, selective mining, production methods as well as for the necessary converging technologies on an overall mining ecosystem level.
Led by the Centre for Automation and Robotics of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Spanish National Research Council, ROBOMINERS will be implemented by a consortium of 14 partners from 11 EU countries, that covers a wide range specialities, consisting of geo-scientific SMEs, academics covering both mining and robotics, non-governmental organisations, and governmental bodies.
The European Federation of Geologists, which has a network of more than 45,000 geoscientists across Europe, will lead the dissemination and communication efforts within ROBOMINERS.