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Earth observation and Earth GNSS data acquisition and processing platform for safe, sustainable and cost-efficient mining operations

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Goldeneye (Earth observation and Earth GNSS data acquisition and processing platform for safe, sustainable and cost-efficient mining operations)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-10-31

Mining industry provides raw materials that are required to construct roads and hospitals, build electric and regular automobiles, information technology and consumer electricity. In short, the industry’s products are mandatory for modern societies It is also economically important for producing countries providing hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe and the key player in the EU’s raw material independency. However, the industry is facing increasing efficiency, cost, regulatory and environmental challenges:
- Exploration challenges: There are fewer high-quality ore deposits left to develop. New deposits are often in remote and difficult-to-access areas. Consequently, the costs, lead times and risks associated with developing and operating new mines are increasing. Future exploration requires sensing technologies that can reach the remaining, more remote locations, or extract more value from existing mines and tailings.
- Mining operations challenges: The global commodities boom in the early 2000s was driven primarily by the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy. However, as China’s economy has shifted away from resource-intensive manufacturing, there has been a slowdown in demand growth and consequent fall in commodity prices and mining profits: efficiency and cost reduction has therefore become a higher priority for mining operators. New sensing technologies can increase the efficiency and reduce the costs of mining operations, by allowing geo-referenced, qualitative and quantitative assessments of the mined ore, material flows and equipment tracking.
- Hazard risk management challenges: Recent and tragic tailing dam failures in South America have brought the management of tailings dam across the industry into sharp focus. Going forward, the mining industry will be under increased regulatory scrutiny from both a community safety and an environmental point of view. Better data acquisition and processing methods will enable mining operators to improve risk management, using the fusion of satellites, drone and proximal sensors as well as numerical simulations for advanced geotechnical analysis of open pits/underground excavations, rock, groundwater, and ground support to increase mine safety, community confidence and environmental outcomes.
- Closure & post-closure challenges: The renaturation of mining areas requires high-resolution monitoring via multi-spectral sensors to monitor vegetation health and detect Acidic Mine Drainage (AMD). The acquired data allows monitoring the response of vegetation to stress factors at a high temporal and spatial resolution and hence, is the basis for an improved management of renaturation. These data acquisition and processing methods are also useful for considering post-mining land use suitability and agricultural capability.

The Goldeneye project will implement a unique combination of remote sensing and positioning technologies, exploiting Earth observation and Earth GNSS data, together with data fusion and processing powered by data analytics and machine-learning algorithms. The Goldeneye platform will allow satellites, drones and in-situ sensors to collect high-resolution data of the entire mine (highwalls, stockpiles, waste dumps, tailings dams, blasting and plants), which can be processed and converted into actionable intelligence for safety, environmental monitoring and overall productivity, allowing more efficient exploration, extraction and closure. These tools will be demonstrated in real life applications creating a compelling value proposition for implementation across the mining industry value chain.
During the first reporting period, Goldeneye started by first creating specifications for project research and development (R&D) work based on the needs of the field trials. These specifications include the data acquisition, processing, fusion, requirements of the operational applications and system architecture design. Concerning the satellite data acquisition and processing, the work has focused on building the cloud service, developing platform graphical user interface, data feed structures, algorithm development, AI analytics and 2D and 3D EO data visualisation functionalities. Drone-based multisensory capabilities have been built, initial field test performed and visualisation functionalities developed. In the proximal sensing research and development, a novel system that can be applied to drill cuttings analysis and integrated to mining equipment and optical measurements for exploration and field laboratory, underground GPS positioning system were developed and tested. Furthermore, a new GNSS receiver was specified. The demonstrator for the “Golden AI” portal as the data integration framework for all applications and data has been completed and is ready. In parallel, several partners have started already with the planning and development of application in using the existing data sets. Additionally, the project’s five field trials have been planned and initial field tests conducted.
The project has already started dissemination activities, providing a project website, video and template materials. Moreover, it has actively published in the social media, conferences and produced press releases and mainstream publications. Initial exploitation plans and data management plan have been created. Finally, the project has delivered the Ethics requirements.
The projects main innovation is the Goldeneye platform that allows data acquisition from various sources (drones, proximal sensors and satellites), AI-based data processing and interoperability with the different partner platforms. In addition, the platform is easy to use, being able to process vast data sets. Notably, the platform solves the problem of working with the combination of the all the different data sets requiring expertise in cloud computing, big data processing and remote sensing by providing the end user an interface that can be operating in natural language. As a result new or improved applications for exploration, mine safety, environmental protection and operations efficiency can be developed. Considering the sensors, the project will develop new drone sensor capabilities, addressing for example data processing, scalability and multisensory flights. In the proximal sensing the advances will focus on novel drill cuttings analysis system, improved optical measurements for exploration and underground navigation systems.
In addition to improve mine safety, environmental protection, as well as operations and explorations efficiency, the project aims to create new jobs to the mining industry technology provider section (after the project). In addition, it is expected that the improved exploration efficiency will help EU ta achieve more independent position in the raw material markets. The introduction of the novel technologies to the mining applications can potentially help attracting young people to work in the industry and furthermore, improved environmental protection and monitoring will help in gaining social licence to operate from the general public.
Goldeneye Concept Figure