The overarching, integrating research theme in Resource Engineering is the development of a framework for real-time-process reconciliation and optimization of mineral resource extraction in highly complex geological settings, particularly for selective mining scenarios. Complex deposits are characterized by a low continuity in grade and high irregularity in the geometry of the ore boundaries. As a result, the profitable exploitation of the deposit becomes much more challenging. This results in underutilization of valuable sources of raw materials in the European Union.
To be able to better utilize such unconventional mineral resources of the future, smart autonomous mining systems are needed, which integrate local exploration of spatially varying material characteristics in–situ and have the ability to follow and extract the pay zones in the ore body while optimizing the sustainable value of extraction. Such a continuous closed-loop process-management system is shown in the scheme below.
The development of such an integrated framework in the context of mineral resource management is novel and involves significant scientific challenges, since it has to integrate the following distinct scientific disciplines into one coherent process optimisation framework:
- Underground equipment positioning
- Sensor-based material characterization
- Sensor-based machine control monitoring
- Methods of spatial grade prediction using geostatistical approaches and rapid updating
- Optimization of short-term planning