Bridging technology and the market
The UNEXMIN project (2016-2019), EU-funded by the Horizon 2020 programme, developed an innovative, robot-based technology prototype, to survey underwater environments, mainly flooded mines. This technology uses non-contact methods for an autonomous 3D mine mapping, to gather valuable geological, mineralogical and spatial information from underground flooded environments.
The initiative of developing such technology comes from the current scenario regarding raw materials criticality in Europe:
- The EU depends on the import of mineral raw materials.
- There are more than 30,000 abandoned mine sites in Europe.
- These mine sites still contain valuable mineral resources, which were not exploited due to different economic scenarios in the history.
- Most of these abandoned sites are now flooded. Part of the UNEXMIN project was to develop an Inventory of Flooded Mines in Europe, which contains more than 11,000 catalogued.
- Lack of information on their current status and layout.
In order to address this situation, two robots were built – UX-1a and UX-1b, whose capabilities were tested in real-life environments, at five different test sites in Europe. The geoscientific and navigational instruments could be validated in these pilot tests, where they proved to be working successfully under different conditions.
UNEXMIN is currently seen by EASME as a successful story in the mineral raw materials community, and was presented at the Raw Materials Week 2019 under the session “Horizon 2020 Technology Success Stories”.
Click on the icon to watch the 3-minute promo video of UNEXMIN.
Based on that, part of the consortium decided to carry on with the journey, by launching the UNEXUP project, funded by EIT RawMaterials. The project started in January 2020 and will be concluded at the end of 2022. The partnership comprise eight organizations from six European countries – whose majority were part of UNEXMIN consortium as well.
In UNEXUP the main objective is to bring the UNEXMIN technology to the market, while improving the system’s software, hardware and capabilities; as well as to build an additional robot, for more complex missions. The company UNEXMIN GeoRobotics Ltd. (UGR) – spin-off of the UNEXMIN project – is the partner responsible for the market strategy and business development portfolio.
Therefore, while UNEXMIN was a research project aiming to raise scientific interest; UNEXUP is an upscaling project, with a business focus.