Project ¡VAMOS! Let’s Go Real!

¡VAMOS! equipment on trial at Lee Moor, Devon, UK.

One month ago, we concluded the ¡VAMOS! project with a presentation at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels1. A relieving event after an amazing project. It all started long, long ago, when several people from the early partners came together and their creative minds forged a brilliant concept: let’s apply the experience from the off-shore mining machines to submerged inland mines, to retrieve minerals, which currently are not profitable to exploit2.

There were three major questions in the project:

  1. What will the production rates be in relation to the minerals that can be expected?
  2. How do we find out, where the valuable mineral is in a submerged environment?
  3. Is the alternative system indeed as easy to handle and environmentally safe as envisioned?

All these issues have been addressed in various work packages. As this was not a desk study or a lab experiment, we needed real hardware to test in field trials. A mining vehicle, a hybrid ROV and a barge to launch the others. The engineering and building was interesting in itself, but the real test was in the two field trials. All the equipment and the people had to perform there. And after all these years since I helped writing the project proposal, it worked! I love it when a plan comes together!

All three research questions can be answered positive. We know how to handle such a system and the hardware required. It will definitely look different than the test vehicle. Here we optimized the engineering for the test, not for production or operation. But we definitely know how to configure the components in a viable operating system. The cutting system was tested to the limits, and production rates estimated. This machine was too light as a production model, but the cutting technology will be able to handle the hardest mineral, as long as weight and power can be applied. As there is no direct vision under water, we developed a data fusion system, where measurements from video, laser, sonar and GPS where the environment was presented in meticulous detail and the vehicle completely modelled in geometry, position and movement. At the pit floor, we were literally driving in virtual reality. The machine created some turbidity, deteriorating vision, but it happened to be less persistent than initially thought. The influence from precipitation runoff into the pit caused more turbidity. All together, we also prepared several business cases for this system against a conventional solution and there are certainly opportunities for a ¡VAMOS! solution.

Results from ¡VAMOS! (a) Cutting tests (b) Virtual vision (c) Equipment handling (d) Viability example (Credit: ¡VAMOS!).

The EU was also very interested whether clients were lining up for the real product. However, investments in the mining industry are slow, long term projects. Our main objective was to find out the operational parameters and present this as a viable alternative to conventional system. And that is what we’ve achieved. And the technology has matured enough, that when there is an opportunity for such a requirement, we are confident, that the tested components can be scaled to production size and readily applied. As a research project, we are finished. At each partner, we will still be working on the test results and improving our technology further. For the interested customer: we are ready to offer a production model. ¡VAMOS!: let’s go for real!

A happy team after concluding the ¡VAMOS! project.

References

  1. The outcomes and the future of the ¡VAMOS! project, ¡VAMOS!
  2. Developments in Mining Equipment and Pumps for Subsea and Inland Submerged Deposits, WODCON 2013

See also

Discussion at LinkedIn post