The I²Mine project is currently running and has just passed mid-term. As I²Mine only marks the start of a series of development activities aimed at realising the concept of an invisible, zero impact, deep mine, the I²Mine consortium is looking for a second period of research activities that will pave the way toward an envisaged pilot installation of technology developed in the frame of the project(s). The particular objectives of the phase 2 base on the achievements of the first, currently running phase and will be concretised towards the end of phase 1.
The core of the project will be to develop breakthrough technologies for autonomous, highly selective, continuous mineral extraction processes and machinery including rock mechanics and ground control solutions, incorporating health, safety and environmental issues.
As the particular objectives of the phase 2 base on the achievements of the first, currently running phase also the content of work and the intended activities can only be described qualitatively.
The concept of the entire I2Mine approach is to develop innovative methods, technologies, machines and equipment necessary for the efficient exploitation of minerals and disposal of waste, all of which will be carried out underground. This will dramatically reduce the volume of surface transportation of both minerals and waste, minimising above ground installations and reducing the environmental impact.
New eco-efficient technologies will be developed and applied in order to make the entire mining process more efficient and environmentally sound. The concept is for an integrated mine, with the majority of the installations underground, and only the final product will be transported above ground to be shipped to the customer. Production waste will be treated and stored underground and gaseous emissions will be managed underground as far as practical. I2Mine-2 will work on ideas and concepts developed in phase 1 that increase energy efficiency and decrease waste.
The work of I²Mine-2 will further concentrate on developing breakthrough technologies for autonomous, highly selective, continuous mineral extraction processes and machinery based on new sensor technologies, face front separation as well as innovative concepts for mass flow management and transportation integrating state of the art technologies. The concept of an invisible, zero impact mine requires a refined process underground that selectively extracts the mineral thereby reducing waste. For this reason, improved extraction machines and near to face processing methods, including backfill procedures, need to be developed. These developments include rock mechanics and ground control solutions, incorporating health, safety and environmental issues.
In deep mining health and safety aspects are critical. The ultimate safety in deep mining can only be achieved with no humans, or zero entry, in the operational area. Although not immediately achievable, the zero entry mine will be based on full automation, semi-automation and remote control for all machinery. First steps were carried out within the frame of I2Mine phase 1. The project is going to develop innovative solutions in terms of methods, technologies, machines and equipment that may be applied in phase 2.
It will be quite likely that the work will also consider the intended subsequent pilot phase, where a pilot installation of an autonomous extraction system including pre-concentration and waste backfill is envisaged. The work in I²Mine-2 will therefore take mainly issues into consideration that needs to be solved in order for the pilot installation to be realised.
Depending on the results and achievements of phase 1 of I²Mine, further research may be necessary to make the extraction system autonomous. The subsequent pre-concentration step will need particular intention as to necessary sensors for the sorting process. Research dedicated to mine infrastructure requirements as well as environmental and health and safety aspects will be tackled as well. One major part of the work will be dedicated to rock mechanics and rock stability problems.
I²Mine-2 will generate results that will cause significant, sometimes high impacts to the mining community and the society in terms of managing primary mineral resources. There will be a further increase of the productivity of underground activities through autonomous underground operations. The project will enable for mining and underground operations with zero impact on existing surroundings in urban and non-urban areas and additionally create inherently safe underground workings and operating environments. The achievements of the project will strengthen the global competitiveness of the European mining industries as well as of the European equipment suppliers. The results of the project will enable for sustainably accessing deep underground mineral resources that cannot be exploited today. Thus, the project will contribute to increase the mineral resources base in Europe, with the related decrease of EU dependency on mineral resources imports.
Coordination, contributing to new mining and underground processing methods, work in rock mechanics and ground control