By Doresa Banning
Imagine if mining companies could send an unmanned aerial vehicle, instead of a person, into a dark, narrow underground area to document the landscape or the scene following an industrial accident. Well, the Autonomous Robots Labs (ARL) at the University of Nevada, Reno is developing the technology for autonomous aerial robots to do just that, to explore, survey, map and monitor underground mines when they can’t rely upon an operator’s vision or the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Earlier this year, the team conducted multi-day tests of its mine inspection robotics in the field, which demonstrated “full exploration autonomy of underground drifts and headings using aerial robots,” according to the ARL.
Aerial robots are just one of the hightech tools and methods in development or use for or by Nevada’s mining industry. They range from automation of individual tasks to an entirely new mining approach.
“It’s pretty exciting because we’re seeing such rapid innovation,” said Dana Bennett, the president of the Nevada Mining Association (NMA), a Reno-based trade organization comprised of about 520 member companies.
Industry at a Glance
Nevada was named the world’s top jurisdiction for mining investment in 2018, as determined through a survey by the Fraser Institute, a Canada-based research and educational organization. An estimated $460.1 million was spent that year on exploration only, not development or production, reflecting a directional reversal and a 28 percent year-over-year uptick, Survey of Nevada’s Mineral and Energy Exploration Industry showed.
Seventy-seven percent of those millions of dollars went to exploration for precious metals, 15.1 percent to base metals, 5.1 percent to energy metals, 2.7 percent to geothermal and 0.4 percent to industrial minerals. That total investment reflects favorably on The Silver State.
“We tend to interpret a strong exploration economy as indicative of a strong mining industry,” Bennett said.
The economic sector, encompassing more than 100 mines producing 20 minerals essential to our day-to-day living, generated about $12.4 billion for the state’s economy in 2018, according to the NMA’s Nevada Mining by the Numbers, 2019. Earlier this year, McEwen Mining Inc. joined the roster, having poured its first gold at the Gold Bar mine in Eureka County.
Further, the Silver State is home to other, non-producing projects, in various stages. For example, Nevada Copper Corp. is on track to commence production at its Pumpkin Hollow project in Yerington by year-end 2019. Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass lithium project in Humboldt County plans to submit a plan of operations to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management this fall. First Vanadium continues to advance its Carlin vanadium project in Elko County toward a preliminary economic assessment, slated for release in early 2020.
Read the rest of the article at nevadabusiness.com.