REMOTELY CONTROLLED MINING EQUIPMENT FOR SUBSEA AND SUBMERGED INLAND DEPOSITS
Specialist Machine Developments (SMD) is a design and manufacturing company involved in the design of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV’s), ploughs, trenchers and mining machines for use in submerged environments. Established in 1971, the company has made over 500 vehicles for subsea use. These range in size from small remotely operated swimming vehicles with a weight of less than a tonne to heavy duty seabed crawling machines with a weight of up to 310 tonnes (in air). Primarily, these machines have been designed for offshore vessel-based applications, but the machines are equally suited to other submerged mining applications onshore. Many onshore deposits can technically and theoretically be mined using currently available submerged mining ROV technology. Similar equipment to that in use subsea could easily be fast-tracked into use to extend the life of opencast mines facing severe hydrological problems. It could also easily be used to mine vertical ore-bodies where the stripping ratio has become uneconomical due to increasing depth. In some cases mining ROVs could even be suitable for use as the primary extraction method for a new mine. Exploration and extraction techniques used in oil and gas gradually developed and moved from land to offshore in the middle of the last century. Are we about to witness a similar shift with other minerals? This paper describes the design concepts of submerged mining equipment, targetted subsea mineral deposits, the suitability of submerged mining ROVs for onshore deposits, limits to their application and parallel research and development activities which will help to accelerate the use of such equipment in the emerging submerged mining sector.
mining; Equipment; Mines; Mine; Mines; Deposits; Materials; Operation;