Research to improve mine safety being developed New technology being developed at the University of Alberta and Laurentian University will provide geologists a remote controlled "set of eyes" that will dramatically improve the safety, quality, speed and efficiency of underground mining operations.
The technology may also eventually be used as part of Canada's contribution to the Mars Mission to help determine the type and quality of rock samples being collected before they are lifted off the red planet back to earth for more analysis. Canada is internationally recognized for its leadership in mining technology.
U of A professor Benoit Rivard, who specializes in the study of remote sensing and infrared technology to determine rock types, has been working on the project in which core samples taken from mines can be remotely scanned and then checked for quality and type.
Major mining companies see this research as another step in ultimately designing completely tele-operated and automated mines.
Core samples are taken from mines to determine where drilling will take place next and where the best rock can be found. Geologists currently have to go into the mines and visually inspect the core samples, making judgements on rock types and mineral content.
The technology to remotely manipulate these core samples has already been developed in Australia but finding a way to analyze them in detail is what Dr Rivard and his team is working on.
Put simply, the amount of light reflected of a rock indicates the type and proportion of minerals present. Dr 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 saving 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.