19 February 2003
Automation coming to a mine near you?
A new remote-controlled "set of eyes" can improve the safety, quality, speed, and efficiency of underground mining operations if the new technology developed at the University of Alberta and Laurentian University comes to fruition.
The technology may also eventually be part of Canada's contribution to the Mars Mission to help determine the type and quality of rock samples being collected before they lift off the red planet.
University of Alberta professor Benoit Rivard, who specializes in the study of remote sensing and infrared technology to determine rock types, can remotely scan and check the quality and type of the core samples taken from mines.
As automation is sweeping through all types of manufacturing, mining companies see this as another step in ultimately designing completely teleoperated and automated mines.
Mining companies take core samples from mines to determine where drilling will take place next and where they can find the best rock. Geologists currently have to go into the mines and visually inspect the core samples, making judgments on rock types and mineral content.
The technology to remotely manipulate these core samples already occurs in Australia, but a way to analyze them in detail is what Rivard is developing.
The amount of light reflected off a rock indicates the type and proportion of minerals present. Rivard works to decode this information via a complex set of algorithms.
This code will then enable geologists to work out exactly what sort of minerals are found in the rock in a particular area without having to go into the mine. This will contribute significantly to improving safety and accuracy, as well as save time. Taking several core samples, it may also be possible to build up a three-dimensional picture of an ore body to improve mine production.
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