EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

ROBOMINERS - Resilient Bio-inspired Modular Robotic Miners

Balazs Bodo1, Luis Lopes1, Claudio Rossi2, Giorgia Stasi3, Stephen Henley4, Vitor Correia5, Tobias Pinkse6, Alicja Kot-Niewiadomska7, Jussi Aaltonen8, Nikolaus Sifferlinger9, Nelson Cristo10, Norbert Zajzon11, Gorazd Zibret12, Janos Horvath13, and Maarja Kruusma14
Balazs Bodo et al.
  • 1La Palma Research Centre for Future Studies SL, Isla de La Palma, Canarias, Spain
  • 2CAR UPM-CSIC, Madrid, Spain
  • 3Geological Survey of Belgium - RBINS & University of Liége, Belgium
  • 4Resources Computing International Ltd, Matlock, UK
  • 5European Federation of Geologists, Brussels, Belgium
  • 6K-UTEC AG Salt Technologies, Sondershausen, Germany
  • 7Mineral and Energy Economy Research Institute, Polish Academy of Science, Krakow, Poland
  • 8Tampere University, Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Tampere, Finland
  • 9Department Mineral Resources Engineering, University of Leoben, Leoben, Austria
  • 10Associação dos Recursos Minerais de Portugal, Lisboa, Portugal
  • 11University of Miskolc, Faculty of Earth Science and Engineering, Miskolc, Hungary
  • 12Geological Survey of Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 13Geo-Montan Kft, Budapest, Hungary
  • 14Center for Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia

The Horizon 2020 ROBOMINERS project (Grant No. 820971) studies the development of an innovative technology for the exploitation of small and difficult to access mineral deposits. A bio-inspired reconfigurable robot with a modular nature will be the target of the research efforts. The goal is to develop a prototype that will be able to mine under different conditions, such as underground, underwater or above water. ROBOMINERS’ innovative approach combines the creation of a new mining ecosystem with novel ideas from other sectors, particularly robotics. This covers both abandoned, currently flooded mines not accessible anymore for conventional mining techniques; or places that have formerly been explored, but whose exploitation was considered as uneconomic due to the small-size of deposits, or their difficulty to access. 

The ROBOMINERS concept follows a 5-step approach: 1) Robot parts (modules) are sent underground via a borehole; 2) Self-assemble to form a fully functional robot; 3) Robot detects the ore deposit via sensing devices; 4) Using ad-hoc production devices, it produces slurry that is pumped out; 5) Ability to re-configure on-the-job. 

Specifics include: 1) Construction of a fully functional modular robot miner prototype following a bioinspired design, capable of operating, navigating and performing selective mining; 2) Designing a mining ecosystem of expected future upstream/downstream raw materials processes via simulations, modelling and virtual prototyping; 3) Validation of all key functions of the robot-miner to a "Technology Readiness Level" of TRL4; and  4) To use the prototypes to study and advance future research challenges concerning scalability, resilience, re-configurability, self-repair, collective behavior, operation in harsh environments, selective mining, production methods, as well as for the necessary converging technologies on an overall mining ecosystem level. These specific goals will deliver a new mining concept, proven in laboratory conditions, capable of changing the scenario of mineral exploitation.

Powered by a water hydraulic drivetrain and artificial muscles, the robot will have high power density and environmentally safe operation. Situational awareness and sensing will be  provided by novel body sensors, such as artificial whiskers that will merge data in real-time with real-time production mineralogy  sensors that, together with specific production tools, will enable selective mining, optimising the rate of production and selection between different production methods. The produced mineral concentrate slurry is pumped to the surface, where it will be processed. The waste slurry could then be returned to the mine where it will backfill mined-out areas.

ROBOMINERS will deliver proof of concept for the feasibility of this technology line, which can enable the EU to have access to mineral raw materials from otherwise inaccessible or uneconomic domestic sources, decreasing European dependency on imports from third-party sources, as envisaged by the raw materials policy. Laboratory experiments will confirm the Miner’s key functions, such as modularity, configurability, selective mining ability, and resilience under a range of operating scenarios. The Prototype Miner will then be used to study and advance future research challenges concerning scalability, swarming behaviour and operation in harsh environments.

How to cite: Bodo, B., Lopes, L., Rossi, C., Stasi, G., Henley, S., Correia, V., Pinkse, T., Kot-Niewiadomska, A., Aaltonen, J., Sifferlinger, N., Cristo, N., Zajzon, N., Zibret, G., Horvath, J., and Kruusma, M.: ROBOMINERS - Resilient Bio-inspired Modular Robotic Miners, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-11727,, 2020.


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