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Sonic Drilling coupled with Automated Mineralogy and chemistry On-Line-On-Mine-Real-Time

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SOLSA (Sonic Drilling coupled with Automated Mineralogy and chemistry On-Line-On-Mine-Real-Time)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2020-12-31

SOLSA is a Research & Development project lead by ERAMET and was financed by the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union. Industrially driven, the consortium is composed of LE, SMEs and academic experts covering exploration, database management, instrumentation and software development, drilling rigs, analytical prototypes and marketing strategies. The goal is to develop an innovative expert system for:
(1)Getting fastly and cheaply reliable drill holes samples characterized by a better quality than those obtained by the current techniques. The sonic technique has been chosen for its development potential toward the reduction of drill hole costs and the improvement of the quality of the cores;
(2)Getting mineralogical data, systematically and directly on mines, meaning also chemical data as a help for the determination of the mineral associations and adding information on the core samples mechanics.
The project brings together industrial and academic skills and knowledges issued from 3 activity areas – mining exploration, analytical instrumentation & database – with the participation of 9 partners and 3 third parties, from 4 European countries:
(1)Exploration and mining industry represented by ERAMET (F) including SLN Le Nickel ( NC), Eijkelkamp SonicSampDrill (NL) and BRGM (F);
(2)Analytical instrumentation by INEL-TFS (F), development and test in lab by the academies CNRS-CRISMAT (F), Trento-TN and Verona-VR (I), as well as BRGM (F) and ERAMET Research (F);
(3)Database creation and data processing by the Academies IBT-Vilnius (L), Trento-TN and Verona-VR (I), CNRS-CRISMAT (F) and ERAMET Research (F); TU Delft (NL) being in charge of the economic balance sheet of the solution.
The innovation of the « expert system » SOLSA consists in the combination of the different techniques used in drilling and analysing the chemistry and mineralogy of the core samples. Data received from the whole expert system will contribute to improve the reliability of the 3D models on full interpretation of these data sets. Getting in real time data on chemistry, mineralogy, textures, grain sizes, discontinuities, and phase quantifications will give precious information to define new and innovative geo-metallurgical proxies in order to increase the efficiency of the raw material industry.
Regarding the exploitation plan, the design, purchase and assembling of instruments for building the prototypes SOLSA DRILL, SOLSA ID1 and SOLSA ID2A have been achieved.
Lab analyses using the techniques XRD, XRF, Raman, hyperspectral spectroscopy and hyperspectral imagery have highly contributed to the filling of the database library.
The prototype ID2B has been assembled and installed in a trailer named Mobilab where all devices are fixed on solid frame protected from vibrations by silent blocks. It has been certified as compliant and is equipped with safety sensors in order to prevent any break-down.
Several tests have been performed on the different modules:
-May 2018: Drilling tests at Giesbeck on 3 blocks (1 m3 size each) of fresh rocks.
-Sept. 2018: Field tests on SODICAPEI bauxite mine. 2 weeks of drilling have been done to test the quality of cores and the performance of SOLSA expert system. During that stage, SOLSA ID2A and 2B have been used for the first time in field conditions for determination of the mineral association of the cores.
-April 2019, a new field test will be performed at Villeveyrac again, where only SOLSA DRILL will be involved. The test on a long hole will specify the performance of the drilling system in such conditions for comparison with that of other techniques used in nickel ore mines.
-October 2019: Field tests performed in Poland on SOLSA DRILL for measuring the performance in sediments.
-March 2020: starting drilling tests in New Caledonia on nickel laterites but stopped due to COVID 19 crisis. The drill rig is still on mine waiting for the authorization for travelling.
The software and database driving the instruments, storing and interpreting the data, have been achieved and a master software has been developed and implemented with a Graphical User Interface facilitating the access by the end user.
Regarding dissemination plan, as described in WP9, the SOLSA Consortium had four major communication actions: (1) publications, (2) active participation in national and international conferences with invited, oral and/or poster presentation, session convenors, (3) booths and (4) knowledge transfer and education. At present, about 30 articles are published in peer-reviewed journals and 40 papers were presented at international conferences, 5 workshops were led, 3 dissemination events (booths...) and SOLSA clustered at 3 events with other H2020 and EIT-KIC projects.
Comparison with conventional techniques has highlighted the following progress, with a first coarse evaluation of gains:
1-DRILLING: 40% win on drilling campain price
-Regarding exploration stage, the Sonic drilling technique is been evaluated for a 60m per day. It is expected to be faster, cheaper and with core quality similar to that from diamond drill holes of HQ diameter.
-Sonic drilling is a technique which uses no or little water, having a positive environmental impact but also a better recovery of the samples;
2-MINERALOGY: 100x win
The mineral composition is currently not systematically determined. When necessary, some samples are chosen for detailed mineralogical analyses but the selection of such samples is based on chemical data only, and question about the representativeness, the suitability regarding of schedule and delay. SOLSA will characterize the whole core.
3-CHEMISTRY: 8 times faster and divide the number of lab analyses by 2 to 4.
-There is no question of suppressing conventional chemical analyses carried out according to mining codes but samples can be composited in order to reduce the number of such analyses.
4-OPEN DATABASE: 3x win - related to specific spectral, raman and hyperspectral databases
All data (spectra and other signals) are filling in an open database that will enrich the current libraries used by the scientific community.
5-IMPROVEMENT OF ORE PROCESSING: could not be quantified because of COVID 19 crisis.
The additional information will lead to the definition and regionalization of the different types of ores (and waste rock), which can contribute to optimal process plant feeding.
In addition, the solution proposed by the project contribute to demonstrate the willingness of open innovation of European companies and universities, combining advanced research with economic issues.
The cooperative interplay of the different expertise and skills of the Consortium is expected to take to commercialization an innovative solution with strong impacts in geo-metallurgical studies, digital transformation toward 4.0 mining, marketing challenges, scientific influence, training young engineers and students, and employment of engineers and technicians. In this regard, the Consortium has a consolidated experience, considering that 11 researchers have been employed in permanent position during the H2020 project SOLSA by the partners of the Consortium. Regarding foreseen challenges, there is a strong competition with field analyzers and expert systems currently under development or available in the market but SOLSA is the only one solution proposing a whole system combining drilling equipment and core analysers.
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