The EIT RawMaterials supported start-up, SpacEarth Technology, has developed a new automated solution for real-time monitoring of ground displacements in mining to increase workers’ safety as well as mining asset integrity, EIT said.
Mines-In-Time (MIT) is designed to monitor rock mass during mining operations and is integrated in a traffic-light decision support system (DSS) to avoid risks and cost related with mine collapses, EIT said.
The solution has been validated in relevant environments on the micro-seismicity data recorded at Boliden’s Garpenberg mine, in Sweden, one of the world’s most productive and automated underground zinc mines, currently mining at 1,250 m depth.
The Mines-In-Time solution addresses the following:
- Control ground deformations and stress alteration of the rock mass during mining operations;
- Improved safety during mining operations; and
- Enabling real-time autonomous decision-making systems.
Based on the four dimensions Local Earthquake Tomography (4D LET) methodology, Mines-In-Time is able to analyse both natural and induced micro-seismicity from mining operations, according to EIT.
“This technique is an unparalleled upgrade of the traditional ambient noise analysis and time-lapse 3D LET, since the addition of the fourth dimension (time) allows real-time monitoring of ground deformation related to the stress variation, and provides an instant alert in case of risky conditions, using data provided by the existing networks of seismographs already installed in most of the mining sites (no extra hardware to be installed),” EIT said.
For this reason, MIT is the only DSS and early warning system for mining able to dynamically forecast rock deformations and provide an alert in case of critical conditions, according to EIT.
Mining companies and service providers will benefit from a reduction of health and safety risks of personnel involved in underground works and reduction of economic losses due to collapses and failures, according to EIT.
It will also improve planning and scheduling of mining and maintenance operations, saving costs associated with inspections, analysis and monitoring, estimated in the order of 30% with respect to current practices.
SpacEarth Technology, a spin-off of the Italian Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), was founded in 2014 and supported by the EIT RawMaterials Booster to develop applications for the mining industry.
SpacEarth has direct connections with mining companies (Bolden and LKAB), service providers (DMT and IMS), and the Luleå University of Technology, all of which are tied to working on seismic hazards in mines.
It was initially supported by the EIT RawMaterials Start-up and SME Booster 2016 and 2017.
“The EIT RawMaterials Booster supported the delivery of a market study for the mining sector including direct contacts with client prospects,” EIT said. “As a result, the company achieved a higher technology level, and this boosted the technology attractiveness from the industry.”
Mines-In-Time will be further validated in 2020 thanks to a recently established contract between SpacEarth and Boliden.
Savka Dineva, Professor, Luleå University of Technology, said: “The seismic hazard in the mines is strongly related to the stress changes and the condition of the rock mass (fracturing process with time). That is why monitoring of these two factors is important to foresee the changes in the seismic hazard. MIT is a valuable tool that could give important information about the changing stress and rock conditions – it can be used for large volumes.”