Sustainable and resource-efficient solutions through digitalisation
A new European project developing technology for underground mining has kicked off in Leoben, Austria. IlluMINEation received €8.9 million funding from the EU Programme for Research and Innovation and will advance risk and resilience in mines as part of operational efficiency in the next three years.
The European Union keeps its commitment to supporting a sector that needs to improve productivity. Mines, not only in Europe, have understood that embracing sustainability is the only option to avoid being left behind as an industry sector.
Innovation fuelling Industry 4.0
Ensuring that they are up to date with the latest technology is the way for mining companies to remain competitive. Among cutting-edge technologies, Internet of Things (IoT)-improved connectivity is essential to the future of mining.
“Mines are expanding their digitalization and know better and better what they need. We as technical partners have to be ready to respond to their needs and for that we rely on innovation,” says Andrea Bartoli, Worldsensing’s head of business development.
Worldsensing participates in several R&D projects funded by the European Union to develop innovative solutions for the mining sector. The industrial IoT leader is also a member of the EIT RawMaterials network and recently kicked off the project AMICOS for digital mines.
“The digital transformation of mines is generating an increasing amount of data and one key aspect is to develop ways of creating real value for mine operators from these data,” explains Denis Guilhot, senior EU project manager at Worldsensing.
He says that in the innovation area, Worldsensing is focusing on combining the currently most-advanced technologies moving to an Industry 4.0 world.
A mining platform for safety, environment and economic performance
IlluMINEation will digitise underground mining operations by introducing ground-breaking technologies, like remote-controlled robots, autonomous drones, novel sensor systems, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, accompanied by the extensive use of data analytics and new forms of industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Augmented and virtual reality, as well as digital twins, will be utilised for data visualisation and operational control.
The novelty of IlluMINEation compared to other mining projects is the low-cost sensors used and the Industrial IoT (IIoT) platform that will be developed. This mining platform will be a step forward for the mining industry since it will provide a technology hub to manage not only ore exploration but also the status of equipment, people in the mining facility and the working environment.
“IlluMINEation will work on the three key factors that impact the sustainability and profitability of mining operations: occupational health and safety, environmental impacts and efficient and economic operations,” says Denis Guilhot, senior EU project manager at Worldsensing.
An enhanced ore recovery results in less waste while predictive maintenance prevents the failure of machine parts for a reduced environmental impact. A real-time risk assessment algorithm using AI technologies will increase the level of safety for workers.
According to its focus on underground mining and tailings monitoring, the project includes five use cases covering four raw materials where the developments will be tested: a fluorite mine in Spain, magnesite mines in Austria, and copper and silver mines in Poland, as well as one use case for predictive maintenance.
The project consortium consists of 19 partners from six European countries. Mining companies involved in the project as end-users include Boliden Mineral (Sweden), KGHM Polska Miedz (Poland), Minera de Orgiva (Spain) and RHI Magnesita (Austria).
World leading industrial and academic players from different technical fields are also included in the consortium: Montanuniversitaet Leoben, Joanneum Research Forschungsgesellschaft, Epiroc Rock Drills, ams, KGHM Cuprum, DMT, GEOTEKO, Lulea Tekniska University, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, DSI Underground Austria, Retenua, IMA Engineering, Fundacion Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Worldsensing, and Instytut Chemii Bioorganiczney Polskiej Akademii Nauk.
IlluMINEation will ensure that all mining personnel receive the best possible information that an enormous digital-enabled amount of data has to offer, whilst ensuring all data is properly protected via a rigorous cybersecurity approach.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 869379.