Engineering & Mining Journal

AUG 2018

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90 E&MJ • AUGUST 2018 www.e-mj.com OPERATING STRATEGIES Looking down the bore of a multi-bar- reled threat to the future of mining in the region, European industry stakeholders plan on fi ring a few preemptive shots of their own to clear the way for ongoing mineral exploration and mining projects using less resources and with smaller im- pact on society and the environment. Pointing out that many of Europe's actively mined orebodies face eventual depletion — and any traditional effort to replace those reserves will likely involve complex procedures and consume large amounts of energy and water — German electronic specialist Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS announced in July the kickoff of a project in collabo- ration with three other partners to use artifi cial intelligence and sensor fusion technologies to analyze the concentration of valuable minerals as early as possible in the exploration process, and thereby conserve resources. The overall objective of the research project, titled REWO-SORT, is the evalua- tion of the technical feasibility and devel- opment of an improved sorting technology for raw materials by means of a multimodal sensor data fusion of optical and X-ray tech- nologies. Sensor data fusion is described as the process of integrating multiple data sources to produce more consistent, accu- rate and useful information than that pro- vided by any individual data source. According to the Fraunhofer announce- ment, early separation of low-value mate- rial in the process chain should not only increase treatment effi ciency, but also re- duce the water and energy consumption in downstream process steps. The sensor data fusion method is based on deep neural networks (DNNs). The project will examine the robustness of the methodology under variable geological conditions; for example, using different rock compositions. Fraunhofer said a combination of la- ser-induced plasma spectroscopy (LIBS) and multi-energy X-ray imaging (ME-XRT) is particularly promising, as the technol- ogies complement each other in terms of their analytical performance: LIBS is able to provide an analysis of the chemical composition of the surface, whereas ME- XRT determines elementary information of the total object volume. "The technological convergence of these two sensor technologies will enable the extrapolation of precise surface infor- mation to the entire volume. This allows us to determine representative values for the entire ore. Adaptation to varying ore types and geological parameters will be done using artifi cial intelligence," said Markus Firsching, project manager at the Fraunhofer Development Center for X-ray Technology, a division of Fraunhofer. Fraunhofer claims the fusion of sen- sor technologies to be developed should provide constant and accurate monitoring of the mineralogy of the mined rock. Ac- cording to the company, a notable feature of the system is that the geological, miner- alogical, rock mechanical and metallurgical properties of the ore are determined direct- ly while the material moves over a conveyor belt. Additionally, these properties will be automatically fed into geological 3D mod- els in order to facilitate mine planning. REWO-SORT is a joint project of Fraun- hofer IIS; Luleå University of Technology; Secopta, a German supplier of laser spec- troscopic systems; and University of Chile. Remodeling Exploration Earlier, in May, another exploration-ori- ented research project, fi nanced by the European Union (EU) as part of the HORI- ZON 2020 Research and Innovation pro- gram, started with a kickoff meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland. The NEXT project is aimed at developing new geomodels, novel sensitive exploration technologies and data analysis methods, which in combination will be faster, more cost-effective, environ- mentally safe and potentially more socially acceptable, according to project sponsors. The NEXT consortium is coordinated by the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and consists of 16 partners from research institutes, academia, service providers and mining industry from the six EU member states Finland, Sweden, Germa- ny, France, Malta and Spain. They repre- sent the main metal-producing regions of Europe: the Baltic Shield, the Iberian Va- riscan Belt and the Central European Belt. "These economically most important metallogenic belts have diverse geology with evident potential for different types of new mineral resources," said Vesa Nykänen, research professor and scientifi c coordinator of the project. "The mineral deposits in these belts are the most feasi- ble sources of critical, high-tech and other economically important metals in the EU." The project is built on three pillars of technological advances: 1) Mineral systems modeling, 2) exploration methods and ap- proaches, and (3) data processing and data integration tools. NEXT will combine the knowledge derived from the geological min- eral systems research with the new advanced exploration techniques. The development of data analysis techniques is a crucial step in getting most out of the vast exploration data with lower costs and better accuracy. With these principles in mind, the con- sortium said it is taking steps toward more effi cient and economically and environ- mentally sustainable mineral exploration. "This will eventually lead into better suc- cess rates in exploration and new discover- ies, which is important for the raw materials supply for European industrial development now and in the future," said Nykänen. The principal objectives of the project are to: • Produce robust conceptual 3D models for selected target sites that in combi- nation with pathfi nders allow to predict the location and the size of ore deposits at depth; • Develop new geophysical EM airborne methods (also with UAVs); • Improve, facilitate and promote cost- effi cient and environmentally friendly multisource surface geochemical ex- ploration techniques for target scale mineral exploration; European Projects Aim at Streamlining Exploration and Improving Sustainability

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