In the black — the next frontier between technology and mining in the deep underwater

For the second year INESC TEC’s Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (CRAS) will organise the IN THE BLACK meeting, with the support of TEC4SEA Research Infrastructure [+info: www.inesctec.pt/en/innovation/tec4sea#intro ] and EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) Raw Materials [+ info: eitrawmaterials.eu].

The “Portugal is Sea” map shows the project for the extension of the Portuguese Continental Shelf and there is definitely a considerable area to be explored.

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The exploitation of mineral resources on deep-ocean beds, including those in the surrounding area of sensitive-rich habitats such as hydrothermal vents, is rapidly emerging as a credible alternative. However, the scale and the nature of the challenges ahead, both from a technological and environmental perspective are mostly unknown at present. It is crucial to develop new cost-effective technologies embedded into rigorous operating frameworks. The increasing challenges that are ahead of us related to deep underwater need more and more IN THE BLACK discussions.

In that sense, IN THE BLACK community is growing and these meetings provide the opportunity to increase understanding of innovations and new trends in Deep Sea Mining and highlight opportunities for synergy; bringing together the EIT Raw Materials KIC (European Institute of Innovation & Technology — Knowledge and Innovation Community) within the Portuguese innovation and technology ecosystem.

The Geology, Biology, Environmental, Digital, Mining, Robotics and other Technological communities will meet “in the middle” of Raw Materials to discuss the next frontier for Deep Sea Mining. INESC TEC is also joining forces with all the Partners of the Innovation Hub CLC East — EIT Raw Materials, and is currently the leader of the Thematic Group concerning Underwater and Deep Sea Mining. This thematic field is part of the EIT Raw Materials and our Innovative Hub strategy, to strengthen this emerging area. This investment, on a World, European, national and regional scale, in the Raw Materials arena will be beneficial to us all, fostering the integration of education, business and research. It will also provide insights from different experiences and approaches, enabling mineral resources exploration and safe exploitation to move forward.

IN THE BLACK also provides a great opportunity to analyse deep underwater technologies from exploration to exploitation. It covers several fields such as autonomous systems and robotics, handling big data, rethinking of modern Information Technology Infrastructure, proposals for innovative solutions and discussions on the next steps. IN THE BLACK is focusing this year on Exploration, Extraction and Construction Opportunities for Underwater Technology, is expected to generate renewed momentum to the EIT Raw Materials Community. In addition to strengthening the connections between KIC Partners, we aim to redefine future enabling strategies. The meeting will include live exhibitions concerning UNEXMIN (+info: www.unexmin.eu ) and VAMOS (+info: vamos-project.eu) European Projects and the attendees are invited to interact directly with the researchers and the underwater technologies of INESC TEC’s Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems.

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Today’s technology is opening up new frontiers for sustainable access to vital raw materials and tomorrow’s technology will undoubtedly open up further exciting opportunities. INESC TEC, in particular the Robotics Laboratory, is taking this into consideration, including academic and industrial research and innovation, alongside shared experiences of full scale offshore mineral exploration and extraction.

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We continue to work in several fields of action under the framework of projects related to underwater robotic technologies. But also we continue to immerse in “deep waters” including two new up-scaling proposals that will start in 2020 supported by the EIT Raw Materials, entitled INSite [In­situ ore grading system using LIBS in harsh environments] and UNEXUP [UNEXMIN Upscaling].

Every year, IN THE BLACK, triggers the development of future collaborations and projects, answers some questions and, perhaps… raises more. This thematic area, definitely, cannot be at the bottom of the list Portugal and European priorities.

IN THE BLACK is coming… It is time to all of you become IN THE BLACK “state of mind”!

+info about IN THE BLACK: www.strongmar.eu/site/in-the-black-2019-109

The INESC TEC researchers Ana Pires and Eduardo Silva have written this article in June 2019.

Ana Pires is a Post-Doc Researcher at INESC TEC’s Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems and ISEP’s School of Engineering, involved in several projects related to sea mining/marine mining and geological resources. She has a European Doctorate in Geosciences (Geological Ressources and Geomaterials Area). Presently she is involved in the EMSO-PT Project and is working very closely with the preparation and submission of scientific or up-scaling projects under the framework of EIT Raw Materials related to underwater technologies.

Eduardo Silva is the Coordinator of the Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (CRAS) at INESC TEC and Professor at the School of Engineering (ISEP) of the Porto Polytechnic Institute (IPP). He has a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Porto. His main research areas are marine robotics, control architectures, perception and navigation for autonomous robots. He has participated in more than 14 research projects, including ¡VAMOS! and UNEXMIN EU projects.

INESC TEC is a private non-profit research institution, dedicated to scientific research and technological development.

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