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Real-Time Mineral X-Ray Analysis for Efficient and Sustainable Mining

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - X-MINE (Real-Time Mineral X-Ray Analysis for Efficient and Sustainable Mining)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2018-11-30

The sustainable supply of raw materials is a major European challenge, in particular for minerals and metals where the EU’s share of the global production went from 50 % in 1850 to 5% in 2009. Today, the EU-36 countries contribute to more than 20% of the global consumption of minerals and metals but only produce around 3% of the total supply. Today, critical sectors of the EU economy, such as the automotive, chemical and electronics industries, depend on the secure resource potential and supply of raw materials, but the domestic extraction of minerals and metals is largely insufficient to meet the EU’s raw materials demand. However, Europe possesses several world class mineral deposits and there is potential to close the supply-demand gap by optimizing production through modern exploration, mining and processing techniques. The X-MINE project aims to support advanced exploration, better resource characterisation and estimation as well as more efficient ore extraction in existing mine operations, making the mining of smaller, lower grade and complex deposits economically feasible and increasing potential of European mineral resources (specifically in the context of critical raw materials) with minimal environmental and health impact.
The project develops a real-time sensing platform comprising a set of high performance sensors based on X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), X-Ray Transmission (XRT) and 3D shape measurement technologies as well as integrates the sensing platform and results thereof with mineral sorting equipment, mine planning software systems, exploration software and enhanced work procedures. The X-MINE project will demonstrate the impact of these innovative technologies on the exploration capacity, the operational efficiency and environmental footprint of existing mining sites. More specific X-MINE objectives have been structured under the following four key areas: 1) Improve and combine various online sensing technologies 2) Integrate the multi-sensor solution in an online analysis platform 3) Demonstrate the solution in real mining operations 4) Conduct dissemination and exploitation activities.
During the first reporting period X-MINE has been proceeding with all the four key areas, as follows:
1) Improve and combine various online sensing technologies
Advacam has developed X-ray imaging sensors using High-Z materials (CdTe, CZT and GaAs) and integrated with Medipix3 and Timepix3 readout microstructures. New modular architecture, electronics and software was developed for online XRT imaging. The camera prototypes were optimised for drill core analysis and sorting applications and the first prototypes were delivered for application testing by VTT and Orexplore. A functional prototype of a new 3D scanning device for mineral sorting application was developed by Antmicro and system performance with calibration methods were demonstrated. Three copies of the 3D scanning device prototype were built and the first prototype was sent for testing by VTT. The first cryocooled multi element 2 x 4-pixel XRF spectrometer prototype was built by Orexplore and functional testing is ongoing in drill core analysis environment.
2) Integrate the multi-sensor solution in an online analysis platform
Development of online analysis platform is ongoing in three parallel research lines: a) improving the existing multi-sensor XRF/XRT drill core analysis technology by Orexplore, b) modifying existing mineral sorting equipment for X-MINE studies at Comex as well as c) building sensor integration and testing platform at VTT. Orexplore has improved their drill core scanning technology, 3D algorithms and data visualisation software. Comex research sorting prototype is integrated with dual energy and multi-energy sensors and initial testing of 3D and XRT imaging sensors from X-MINE project is ongoing. VTT has built a large 1 m x 3 m x 1.5 m lead shielded testing platform, which is used to integrate X-MINE sensors and study characteristics of XRT, XRF and 3D sensors on moving samples.
3) Demonstrate the solution in real mining operations
Available ore geological data and information from all four mines were collected and evaluated in joint effort led by SGU. A total of more than 350 rock samples were collected from both outcrops and drill cores representing all four mines. All samples were XRF/XRT-scanned at Orexplore to obtain tomographic images and elemental analyses. Preliminary evaluation shows that internal 3D-structures of cores are clearly visible and that it is also possible to see how various concentrations of elements are located in relation to the structures. Orexplore has deployed the first two drill core analysis prototypes for mine testing, at Lovisagruvan in Sweden from April 2018 and at Hellas Gold in Greece from November 2018. Feasibility testing of sensor-based sorting was started using research sorting prototype at COMEX with dual energy and multi-energy sensors.
4) Conduct dissemination and exploitation activities
X-MINE communication and dissemination-plan has been implemented and results reported. Internal and external project websites with project video, articles and Linkedin pages are used for communicating X-MINE purpose and progress. X-MINE has exhibited and given presentations in conferences, including a dedicated session and several talks in Euro Mine Expo, Skellefteå, 2018. Two community outreach activities have reached a large audience. Exploitation opportunities were strengthened in the field of sensor based sorting thanks to recent amendment and Comex joining the consortium from June 2018. X-MINE exploitation structure has been prepared and documented in a draft exploitation plan. Orexplore has launched drill core analysis product GeoCore X10 in April 2018, and data analysis software product Orexplore Insight in December 2018, supported by X-MINE development.
ORE deposit modelling: X-MINE is developing new methodology for collecting available and new geological data to improve the creation of integrated regional 3D geo-models to be used in near-mine exploration. More than 350 ore and rock samples, and intervals corresponding to >300 meters of drill cores from four mines were XRT/XRF scanned with Orexplore drill core analyser. The real time chemical and tomographic structural data from the XRF/XRT scanning will be used to build 3D models contributing to in-mine exploration and drilling activities.
Sensor and data fusion: Advacam has produced prototypes of new large area WidePIX cameras optimised for high energy X-ray imaging with CdTe sensors with 55µm resolution and up to 8 energy levels. Antmicro has developed a prototype of a new 3D scanning device and demonstrated system calibration and operation. Orexplore has built an integrated prototype of cryocooled multi-element 2 x 4-pixel XRF spectrometer, which is tested in drill core analysis environment.
Online analysis and sensor-based sorting: Specific mine requirements for sensor- based sorting were captured at Lovisagruvan, Hellas Gold, Asarel Medet and Hellenic Copper Mines, including information on the current mineral process. Sorting feasibility experiments on samples from the mines were started using Comex research sorting prototype with dual energy and multi-energy sensors. The results firmly confirm the usefulness of a multi-sensor approach and the need for higher sensitivity sensor technology, which will be studied next after integrating X-MINE sensors in the sorting system.
Community outreach event in the Örebro shopping mall.
Processing drill core samples at the Mavres Petres mine.
Demonstration of XRF/XRT-scanning for distinguishing sulfide minerals from silicates.
Sensor testing is ongoing by Advacam and Antmicro at Comex sorting equipment.
Long-term testing of drill core analysers at Orexplore.