Skip to main content

Resilient Bio-inspired Modular Robotic Miners

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ROBOMINERS (Resilient Bio-inspired Modular Robotic Miners)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

ROBOMINERS will develop a bio-inspired, modular and recon gurable robot-miner for small and di icult to access deposits. Our objective is to create a prototype robot that is capable of mining underground, underwater in a ooded environment, and can be delivered in modules to the deposit via a large diameter borehole drilled from the surface to the mineral deposit.

ROBOMINERS aims at delivering a proof of concept for the feasibility of this technology line at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4. The technology could enable the EU to access mineral raw materials from domestic sources that are otherwise inaccessible or uneconomic. Our technology aims at performing mining in a more sustainable and environmental friendly way, with an indirect benefit to social acceptance of mining.

The high-tech vision of ROBOMINERS aims at having a transformational effect on the mining industry: mining as a high-tech industry

Our concrete objectives are as follows:
(1) Construct a fully functional modular robot miner prototype capable of performing selective mining
(2) Validate all key functions of the robot-miner to a level of TRL-4.
(3) Design a mining ecosystem of expected future upstream/downstream raw materials processes via simulations, modelling and virtual prototyping
(4) Study and develop selective mining instruments: mineralogy and geophysical sensors, and production tools
(5) Use the prototypes to study and advance future research challenges on scalability, resilience, re-configurability, self-repair, collective behavior, operation in harsh environments, selective mining, as well as for the necessary converging technologies on an overall mining ecosystem level.
At this stage partners have been working on preliminary concepts, mainly with the purpose of focussing on relevant technologies and internal communications between researcher with different backgrounds. The latter is extremely important for setting up a common language and a common understanding of the topics at hand.

The project started analysing bioinspired strategies for locomotion, sensing and navigation that could support the design of a new class of mining robots. Parallel with this activity, review work will start on mineral deposit types, with the aim of creating a pool of deposits that could become desirable targets for robominers, with full understanding of geotechnical, rock-mechanical, mining engineering and mineral exploration challenges of their exploitation. We also started merging robotics and geoscientific know-how for the purpose of creating test environments (both simulated and real), construction of scale models (both actual and virtual) and for iterative development and testing key robotic means and functions.

The conceptualization and design of the robotics miner has been be carried out, together with software design. As far as selective mining is concerned, close- and mid- range mineralogy and geophysical sensors are being designed and prototyped. Also, the production tool requirement specification for 3 different production tool concepts (covering CAD conceptualization, analytical studies, selecting COTS parts according to the power, size and weight) has been provided.
The work carried out has progressed in several fields:
• Review of locomotion means in slurry and multi-modal of animals
• Possible geological and mining scenarios for the robominers technology
• Main characteristics of ore deposit types and applicability of the robominers technology
• Review of extractions methods
• Close- and mid-range perception senosrs
• Mining Analogues & upstream/downstream mining processes
• Rock mechanics, backfilling techniques
• Space problem, mine layout and feeding patterns
• High temperature and high pressure electronics and water hydraulics
• Preliminary robot concepts
• Robot modules coupling mechanisms
• Modular robotics: new mechatronics designs and simulations

In line with the Call objectives, ROBOMINERS aims at “creating a lower TRL technology base for radical innovations within the next decades in the sectors concerned that would help unlock substantial reserves of new or currently unexploited resources within the EU”. ROBOMINERS will deliver proof of concept of an envisioned new mining technology line that will enable the EU have access to mineral raw materials from otherwise inaccessible or uneconomic domestic sources. This proof of concept will be delivered in the format of a new amphibious robot miner that will be designed and constructed as a result of merging technologies from advanced robotics, mechatronics and mining engineering. Several of the solutions put forward in ROBOMINERS will convert academic science into a first industrial application. This will support the Call’s requirement for satisfying the EU’s “need for very innovative and sustainable raw materials production solutions at lower TRLs to bring the next 'digital generation' to the raw materials field.” ROBOMINERS will create a new open-source innovation ecosystem that will drive further research, mobilising new players and stakeholders to work together with Europe’s mining sector, spinning in new innovative ideas “creating added value and new jobs in raw materials producing, equipment manufacturing, information and communication technologies and/or downstream industries”.
The project supports the agendas of both EIP (European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials) and ETPSMR (The European Technology Platform on Sustainable Mineral Resources), helping to realise the objectives of the EIP on Raw Materials in terms of improving conditions for sustainable access and supply of Raw Materials in the EU.
Physical scaled prototype
CAD model of the robot
CAD model of the robot
Project concept image