The I2Mine project

The I2Mine (Innovative Technologies and Concepts for the Intelligent Deep Mine of the Future) project marks the start of a series of activities designed to realise the concept of an invisible, zero-impact mine.  It will concentrate on the development of technologies suitable for deep mining activities.

The project will also encompass the development of new techniques for geological engineering methods and rock mechanics that will be demanded by deeper mines and the new technology.  The focus will be on selective exploitation by new sensor based systems for material recognition, boundary layer detection and sorting operations. Although the overall aim is to develop machinery as autonomous as possible, 100% remote operations will not be feasible. This means that health and safety issues and questions related to the working environment will also be addressed. In addition, the environmental implications and impacts will be taken into account.

The challenges for the minerals extractive industry are so large and numerous that comprehensive international cooperation is needed, both by the industry and wider society, in order to succeed. This is true not just for the technical challenges, but also for socio-economic and environmental ones. Working separately would lead to a slow development, something that is undesirable for both the mining industry and for the community. There is need for a new and modern vision for the whole industry based on a modern technical approach that encompasses all aspects of mining.  The Project is, in part, complimentary to the Smart Mine of the Future (SMIFU) initiative.  This is a joint Swedish/Polish conceptual study aimed at developing a common vision for future mining.  The I2Mine Project will develop some of the technical solutions to the issues identified during SMIFU I. Further information can be found at the Rock Tech Centre (Smart Mine of the Future) The I2Mine project will mark the start of such an initiative: the invisible, intelligent and zero-impact mine of the future.

The project is funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme.



Funding has been secured from the European Commission 7th Framework Programme for the I2Mine project and work started in November 2011.  This initiative to focuses on the technological challenges the mining industry is currently facing including the exploitation of ever deeper deposits and the aspiration for an invisible, safe, zero impact mine.  The project is undertaken by a consortium of 26 organisations from 10 European countries.

The European Commission launched the, EU Raw Materials Initiative’ in 2008 with the aim of establishing the necessary framework to foster the sustainable supply of raw materials from European sources, boost overall resource efficiency and promote recycling.  The mining industry faces a number of challenges requiring technical solutions that encompass the entire network and include the economic, social and environmental issues. The industry needs a new image based on pioneering solutions and a modern structure that can exploit minerals at greater depths and promote both high productivity and safe working conditions.

I2Mine marks the start of a series of development activities aimed at realising the concept of an invisible, zero impact, deep mine. The extractive sector, still seen as being old fashioned and environmentally unfriendly, will join forces to revise this image by showing that mineral extraction and processing can be done in a highly innovative and sustainable manner with low impact underground and zero impact above ground.

The concept of  I2Mine is to develop innovative the methods, technologies, machines and equipment necessary for the efficient exploitation of minerals and disposal of waste, both of which will be carried out underground. This will dramatically reduce the volume of surface transportation of minerals and waste, minimising above ground installations and reducing the environmental impact.



New eco-efficient technologies will be applied in order to make the entire mining process more efficient and environmentally sound. The concept is for an integrated mine, with the majority of the installations underground, and only the final product will be transported above ground to be shipped to the customer.  Production waste will be treated and stored underground and gaseous emissions will be managed underground as far as practical.  I2Mine will also focus on ideas and concepts that increase energy efficiency and decrease waste.

In deep mining health and safety aspects are also critical. The ultimate safety in deep mining can only be achieved with no humans, or zero entry, in the operational area. Although not immediately achievable, the zero entry mine will be based on full automation, semi-automation and remote control for all machinery.  A first step in this direction will be undertaken within the framework of I2Mine. The project will develop innovative solutions in terms of methods, technologies, machines and equipment.

The core of the project will be to develop breakthrough technologies for autonomous, highly selective, continuous mineral extraction processes and machinery. This is based on new sensor technologies, face front separation as well as innovative concepts for mass flow management and transportation integrating state of the art technologies.  The concept of an invisible, zero impact mine requires a refined process underground that selectively extracts the mineral thereby reducing waste. For this reason, improved extraction machines and near to face processing methods, including backfill procedures, need to be developed. These developments include rock mechanics and ground control solutions, incorporating health, safety and environmental issues.

I2Mine will focus on the entire cycle of mining with the following objectives:

  • Concepts for innovative mining methods for deep deposits (steep and flat), leading to improved resource efficiency through higher extraction rates (20% and more), a higher selectivity of extraction (10 to 20%) together with a 20% higher deposit utilisation as well as increased productivity and decreased production costs by 20%.
  • Tailor-made concepts for underground, near-to-face processing to reduce the mass flow to the surface by 15 to 25%.
  • High resolution 3D exploration methods for deep deposits.
  • New concepts for mine management to reduce operational expenditure and new methods for predicting, monitoring and controlling subsidence.
  • New methods to handle waste rock underground and backfill products with similar characteristics to the original rock;
  • Health and safety design criteria and guidelines for the new concepts and technologies developed.
  • Concepts for clean, safe and comfortable climate conditions in the underground workings.
  • New concepts and technologies for deep mine rescue.
  • On-line best practice database for all environmental aspects associated with deep mining projects (water management, waste management, emissions, subsidence, etc.).

The project is expected to improve the competitiveness of the extractive sector in Europe as well as the design, manufacture and supply of equipment.


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