On October the 24th the VAMOS! team invited 29 visitors, including Advisory Board Members and other interested external parties, to witness the first live demonstration of their newly developed mining technology at the Imerys Minerals Ltd. Test Site in Lee Moor, Devon, UK.

After providing their guests with the necessary safety instructions, the team took them by boat to the Launch and Recovery Vessel, where they inspected the new mining vehicle and witnessed its deployment and recovery.

Afterwards, visitors were given an overview of EVA, the automated underwater vehicle meant to assist the mining vehicle with positioning, navigation, and situational awareness.

Finally, the virtual reality HMI, from which all machines are controlled and real-time data are gathered, was presented to the visitors.

The demonstration was a success as the system proved to be perfectly integrated and capable of operating in the underwater mining environment. The VAMOS! team is optimistic regarding the possibility to accomplish the objectives of the project and the Advisory Board complimented the consortium, calling their technology “impressive”.

The VAMOS! project

The EU project VAMOS! (for Viable Alternative Mine Operating System) aims at extracting currently unreachable mineral deposits. The advanced mining technologies deployed by the project will enable to reopen abandoned mines and access mines which are limited by stripping ratio, hydrological or geotechnical problems.

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Furthermore, the intention is also to open new mines with a reduced environmental impact. By doing so the VAMOS! project will encourage investment in the extraction sectors and safeguard the EU access to strategically important minerals while guaranteeing the environmental and economic viability of the operations.

The VAMOS! project is based on the use of automated technologies for exploration, extraction and pre-processing of ores. The reason behind the use of automated machines is to guarantee safety, which is a major issue in the mining industry and the main focus of public concern. There is a willingness among the people working at VAMOS! to engage with all stakeholders in order to achieve environmental, economically and socially acceptable solutions.

In order to be able to exploit inland submerged mineral deposits the VAMOS! project had to reach several objectives. First of all, the team developed a prototype of mining system that can operate underwater, while being remotely controlled.

The major challenges in this sense were related to the navigation and positioning of the machinery in the enclosed, noisy, and low-visibility environment of the mines. To overcome these issues the team relied on augmented reality, in order to enable the pilot to operate the Mining Machines. Other features of the newly developed technology include the perception of occluded mine areas, the supervision of tool change, and a real-time grade control capability.

Furthermore, the environmental impact is monitored in real-time, together with the economic feasibility, productivity and cost of operations. The underwater mining operations are meant to leave unaffected the local groundwater level and to minimize the repercussion on the environment. Moreover, VAMOS! holds a particular focus on the macro and micro-economic feasibility and on its social impact on the communities surrounding the mining areas. To enhance the public acceptance of the new extraction techniques, public demonstrations in various EU countries have been scheduled, beginning with the UK.

The EU needs VAMOS!

Due to their active exploitation throughout many centuries, Europe’s mines are mostly depleted. The major opportunities to access mineral deposits are to reach greatest depths in former mines that are often submerged, sites that are very small or located in populated areas. VAMOS! goal is to make accessible the 100€ billion worth minerals in order to ensure a sustainable supply of raw materials to Europe.

In fact, the EU currently consumes about 25-30 percent of the world’s metal production but it extracts only three percent of it. As a consequence, Europe is importing 200 million tons of minerals each year and the amounts are constantly increasing from year to year despite all the attempt to develop recycling and material technologies. VAMOS! aims at introducing and put into action innovations that will help to reduce the EU dependency on foreign countries for the import of minerals, therefore benefitting society as a whole.