Automatic service for monitoring the stress alteration of the rock mass during mining operations

SpacEarth Technology start-up has developed Mines-In-Time (MIT), an automatic solution for real-time monitoring of ground displacements, applied to mining operation and allowing to increase workers’ safety as well as mining assets integrity.The system is designed to monitor the rock masses during mining operations to be integrated in a traffic-light Decision Support System (DSS) to avoid risks and cost related to mines collapse. The solution showed velocity changes of the P- and S-wave after blasting and was tested in a relevant environment on the micro-seismicity data recorded at Garpenberg mine (Boliden Group, Sweden), the world’s most productive and automated underground zinc mine (1250 m depth).

Mines-In-Time solution addresses the following:

  • Control ground deformations and stress alteration of the rock mass during mining operations
  • Improve safety in mining operations
  • Enable Real-Time autonomous decision-making systems

Mines-In-Time is based on four dimensions Local Earthquake Tomography (4D LET) methodology and is able to analyse both natural and induced micro-seismicity due to mining operations. This technique is a unparalleled upgrade of the traditional ambient noise analysis and time-lapse 3D LET, since the addition of the fourth dimension (time) would allow a real-time monitoring of ground deformation related to the stress variation and provides prompt alerts in case of risky conditions, using data provided by the existing networks of seismographs already installed in most of the mining sites (no extra hardware to be installed).

For this reason, MIT can rapidly become a Decision Support System and early warning systems able to forecast rock deformations and provide an alert in case of critical conditions.

Mining companies and service providers will benefit from the MIT outstanding advantages:

  • Reduction of health and safety risks of personnel involved in underground works and reduction of economic losses due to collapses and failures
  • Improvement of planning and scheduling of mining and maintenance operations, saving costs of inspections, analysis and monitoring, estimated in the order of 30% with respect to the current practices.

Better solutions through research

SpacEarth Technology, a spin-off of the Italian Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), founded in 2014 and supported by the EIT RawMaterials Booster to develop applications for the mining industry. Moreover, SpacEarth has direct connections with Bolden Group and LKAB mining companies, DMT and IMS service providers and the Luleå University of Technology working on seismic hazards in mines.

SpacEarth start-up was initially supported by the EIT RawMaterials Start-up and SME Booster 2016 and 2017. The EIT RawMaterials Booster supported the delivery of a market study for the mining sector including direct contacts with client prospects. As a result, the company achieved a higher technology level, and this boosted the technology attractiveness from the industry. Mines-In-Time will be further developed in 2020.

Many mines are today mining at depths where the influence of stresses in the rock mass has a large impact on the mining. To understand the rock response due to mining, ongoing research in the field of seismicity is of high importance. From this knowledge, mine design criteria can be developed to minimize risk for personnel injuries and production disturbances.
Anders Nyström, Rock Mechanics Engineer, New Boliden
The seismic hazard in the mines is strongly related to the stress changes and the condition of the rock mass (fracturing process with time). That is why monitoring of these two factors is important to foresee the changes in the seismic hazard. MIT is a tool that could give important information about the velocity changes with time that could be used possibly as a proxy of changing stress and rock conditions in large volumes (instead of points as in-situ stress monitoring).
Savka Dineva, Professor, Department of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering, Luleå University of Technology
The constant, competent and thorough support of the EIT RawMaterials Innovation Hub South was crucial to bring our business idea into the market.
Vittorio Cannas, CEO, Spacearth Technology Srl