A new program has been launched to develop new underwater mining systems.
Under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program a three and a half year, 12.6 million Euro R&D project is examining robotic underwater mining systems.
Dubbed ¡VAMOS! (Viable Alternative Mine Operating System), the project is focused in designing and building a robotic underwater mining prototype as well as associated launch and recovery equipment.
“Building on successful deep-sea excavation techniques, this prototype will provide a safer and cleaner option for extracting currently unreachable and/or uneconomic mineral deposits,” the EU stated.
“¡VAMOS! will also look to enhance currently available underwater sensing, spatial awareness, navigational and positioning technology, as well as providing an integrated solution for efficient real-time monitoring of the parameters associated with potential environmental impacts.”
Early tests of the system will be carried out at three inland, inactive submerged mineral deposits, with a fourth to be carried out offshore.
The program will be jointly run by BMT Group and Soil Machine Dynamics, and see a consortium of 17 groups come together to develop the technology.
The consortium consists of Damen Shipyards Group; Instituto de Engenharia Sistemas e Computadores; Fugro EMU Limited; Zentrum für Telematik e.V.; Montanuniversität Leoben; Minerália, Lda; Marine Minerals Ltd; Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro SA; Sandvik Mining and Construction G.m.b.H; Geological survey of Slovenia; La Palma Research Centre for Future Studies; European Federation of Geologists; Trelleborg Ede Bv; Federalni zavod za Geologijo and Fondacija za obnovu I razvoj regije Vareš.
Currently Nautilus Minerals is leading the underwater mining race, with its Solwara 1 project off Papua New Guinea rapidly progressing.