The Multi-source and Multi-scale Earth observation and Novel Machine Learning Methods for Mineral Exploration and Mine Site Monitoring (MultiMiner) project develops novel data processing algorithms for cost-effective utilization of Earth Observation (EO) technologies for mineral exploration and mine site monitoring. MultiMiner unlocks the potential of EO data, including Copernicus, commercial satellites, upcoming missions, airborne and low altitude as well as in situ data, to support the entire mining life cycle including mineral exploration, operational, closure and post-closure stages. This is achieved by creating generic but highly innovative machine learning solutions which do not require any or only little ground truth data. The project focuses on new EO based exploration technologies for critical raw materials (CRM) to increase the probability of finding new sources within EU thereby strengthening the EU autonomy in the area of raw materials. MultiMiner EO based exploration solutions have extremely low environmental impact, and are thus socially acceptable, economically efficient and improve safety. The project’s solutions for mine site monitoring increase the transparency of mining operations as environmental impacts can be detected as early as possible and digital information of the currently unexploitable raw materials can be stored for future generations. The applicability of the developed algorithms is demonstrated in 4 European test sites. MultiMiner is a pan-European consortium consisting of 12 partners and 1 associated partner from research institutes, academia, consulting businesses and mining industry with interdisciplinary backgrounds in geology, remote sensing and machine learning. The members come from six EU member states which represent mining regions across Europe with diverse geology with evident potential for various types of CRM resources and thousands of operational and closed mines.
The X-MINE project supports better resource characterization and estimation as well as more efficient ore extraction in existing mine operations, making the mining of smaller and complex deposits economically feasible and increasing potential European mineral resources (specifically in the context of critical raw materials) without generating adverse environmental impact. The project will implement large-scale demonstrators of novel sensing technologies improving the efficiency and sustainability of mining operations based on X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), X-Ray Transmission (XRT) technologies, 3D vision and their integration with mineral sorting equipment and mine planning software systems. The project will deploy these technologies in 4 existing mining operations in Sweden, Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus. The sites have been chosen to illustrate different sizes (from small-scale to large-scale) and different target minerals (zinc-lead-silver-gold, copper-gold, gold) including the presence of associated critical metals such as indium, gallium, germanium, platinum group metals and rare earth elements. The pilots will be evaluated in the context of scientific, technical, socio-economic, lifecycle, health and safety performances. The sensing technologies developed in the project will improve exploration and extraction efficiency, resulting in less blasting required for mining. The technologies will also enable more efficient and automated mineral-selectivity at extraction stage, improving ore pre-concentration options and resulting in lower use of energy, water, chemicals and men hours (worker exposure) during downstream processing. The consortium includes 6 industrial suppliers, 4 research/academic organizations, 4 mining companies and 1 mining association. The project has a duration of 51 months and a requested EC contribution of €9.3M.
Europe’s industry and economy depend on a secure access to many commodities. In 2020, the EC updated its list of critical non-energy non-agricultural raw materials (CRMs), based on scarcity of supply and importance to EU industry. Today, the list includes: Antimony, Fluorspar, Magnesium, Silicon Metal, Baryte, Gallium, Natural Graphite, Tantalum, Bauxite, Germanium, Natural Rubber, Titanium, Beryllium, Hafnium, Niobium, Vanadium, Bismuth, HREEs, PGMs, Tungsten, Borates, Indium, Phosphate rock, Strontium, Cobalt, Lithium, Phosphorus, Coking Coal, LREEs, Scandium. Securing sustainable access to CRM, is of high importance for the EU economy. However, the EU is confronted with a number of technological and environmental challenges along the entire production value chain of primary and secondary raw materials. NetHelix demonstrates in real life settings a toolbox of new technologies for automating and streamlining the extraction process, taking advantage of deposits through mining and waste deposits processing methods, maximising efficiency, reducing waste production, and increasing environmental and huma health and safety.
Smart Exploration consists of a research and application team supported by a group of technologically advanced SMEs and the mining industry. The consortium will firstly focus on developing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly tools and methods for geophysical exploration in highly challenging brownfield areas where exploration expenditure is greater and the return time (from exploration to production) shorter. A second focus point will be long-term greenfield exploration with the aim of reducing exploration costs, implying significant improvement in development rates and a sustainable supply of raw materials at the same rate as the whole world wishes to grow. Therefore, new innovative ideas will also be tested for greenfield exploration to increase the potential of finding new major deposits of relevance to the EU. The overall objectives of the tasks are to develop (1) cost-effective and innovative exploration instruments comprising airborne, surface, downhole and in-mine modular-based geophysical systems, (2) new exploration targets through multidisciplinary and integrated approaches, (3) novel reprocessing and handling of legacy exploration data that will generate additional information and targets for detailed exploration, and (4) validating all these developments, to maximize their impacts, at relevant exploration sites covering greenfield, near-mine and in-mine areas using known targets. We anticipate that these developments will not only generate new technological and methodological markets for the EU, but will also result in improved exploration strategies in the EU and beyond. The nature of the consortium, the partners involved, and the commodities that are considered will result in highly useful exploitation of the developments envisaged in the project and a guarantee of their successful use beyond the project life.