SMD helps develop robot for major international underwater mining project

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

UK-based subsea engineering specialist Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) has successfully completed first stage testing in a pioneering project which is set to uncover valuable European mineral resources.

SMD is technical lead on the VAMOS (viable alternative mine operating system) project, a 42-month international research and development venture, which is part-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

At a cost of approximately €12.6 million, the VAMOS Consortium has designed and built a robotic underwater mining prototype with launch and recovery technology to perform field tests at four EU mining sites.

Stef Kapusniak, SMD business development manager –mining, explains: “The performance of the system is based on proven remotely controlled underwater excavation techniques made possible by improvements in underwater positioning, navigation and awareness systems.

“It will provide a safer and cleaner option for extracting inland submerged mineral deposits. The technique is suitable for soft to medium strength rock in orebodies below the water table. We envisage application in the form of extensions to existing surface mines, re-opening of abandoned un-rehabilitated mines and direct application in previously unworked mineral deposits which are in hydrologically challenging ground.”

Testing has already taken place at a trial site in an abandoned kaolin mine in Devon. During November, the system will be demobilised and prepared for transport from the UK to the second test site in Bosnia and Herzegovina in spring 2018. Testing at further sites in different rock types and water depths will confirm the system’s potential for industrial scale applications.


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