A subsea engineering specialist has successfully completed first stage testing in a pioneering project, which is set to uncover valuable European mineral resources.
Wallsend-based Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) is technical lead on the VAMOS (viable alternative mine operating system) project, a 42-month international research and development venture.
At a cost of approximately 12.6million euros, SMD and its partners in the VAMOS Consortium have designed and built a robotic underwater mining prototype with launch and recovery technology to perform field tests at four EU mining sites.
Stef Kapusniak, SMD business development manager, mining, said: “The performance of the system is based on proven remotely controlled underwater excavation techniques made possible by improvements in underwater positioning, navigation and awareness systems.
“It will provide a safer and cleaner option for extracting inland submerged mineral deposits.
“Testing at the first trial site in an abandoned kaolin mine in Devon went very well. Testing at further sites in different rock types at different water depths will enable confirmation of the system’s potential for industrial scale applications.
“This is a very exciting time, as completion of testing will enable determination of the practical range of application in this emerging market.”
SMD is a market leading global company with more than 45 years’ experience in the subsea technology sector.
It specialises in the development of remotely-operated vehicles and advanced trenching and mining machines.
Paul Davison, SMD managing director of trenching, mining and renewables, said: “I’m very pleased with how the VAMOS project is progressing. This is the first project of its kind for us and so it has been a great learning opportunity. I hope its success will create new opportunities for us all, as well as continue to demonstrate our passion for innovation and delivering world-first projects.”
During November, the system will be demobilised and prepared for transport from the UK to the second test site in Bosnia and Herzegovina in spring 2018.
The VAMOS project launched in March 2016. The consortium includes 16 members from nine EU countries.
Other members are BMT Group Ltd, Damen Shipyards Group, Instituto de Engenharia Sistemas e Computadores, Fugro EMU Ltd, Zentrum für Telematik e.V., Montanuniversität Leoben, Minerália, Lda, Sandvik Mining and Construction G.m.b.H, Geological survey of Slovenia, La Palma Research Centre for Future Studies, European Federation of Geologists, Trelleborg Ede Bv, Federalni zavod za Geologijo and Fondacija za obnovu I razvoj regije Vareš.
SMD currently operates three strategic sites in the North East; a head office and heavy production facility at Davy Bank in Wallsend, a manufacturing site in North Shields and a new servicing operations base at the Port of Tyne.
SMD is a subsidiary of Chinese parent company CRRC Group, the world’s largest provider of propulsion and power control systems. The company continues to expand its global network and is currently investing in a new sales and manufacturing facility in Shanghai.