A co-operative project is using robots to explore workings of flooded mines across Europe.
The UNEXMIN project is developing a technology capable of autonomous exploration and mapping of flooded underground mines. The robotic platform uses non-contact methods to gather geological, mineralogical and spatial data without the major costs or the inherent risks of accessing abandoned mines.
The Robotic Explorer platform, comprised of three robots – UX-1a, UX-1b and UX-1c, uses non-invasive methods for autonomous 3D mine mapping for gathering valuable geological, mineralogical and spatial information that was not traditionally available.
Researchers are hoping to use the data gathered by robots to support re-opening or remediation of some of Europe’s abandoned mines.
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The research co-operative has established field trials at four different flooded underground mines in Europe for the purpose of testing the technology and making improvements.
From the 13th to the 31st of May 2019 the UNEXMIN consortium was in the UK to continue its pilot trials itinerary. Ecton mine received the UNEXMIN team and the UX-1 robots in a trial that marked the fourth time in the field.
At Ecton the objective was to dive into the most important flooded mine workings – shafts and galleries – explore and map them together with gathering of geological and archaeological information.
During the three-week period, UNEXMIN managed to test the technology in a representative, challenging site. The inspection activities with the UX-1 robots led to the exploration of three of the main flooded shafts in Ecton – the Great shaft, the Winding shaft and the Pipe – with relevant mapping results.
Outcomes of the recent project included:
• Deepest dive to 125m in the Great shaft (26/05/2019)
• Geological features and mineralogy identified through visual clues
• Archaeological discoveries of importance, including huge workings not seen since the 1850s and linking passages not marked on old plans
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