ExScan: Making mining hands-free
Australia’s CSIRO has developed and introduced ExScan, a laser scanner that is able to render images of underground mines. Mining Global takes a closer look.
Despite many industry efforts in recent years to make the industry safer, through various types of cutting-edge technology and new, modern processes, the industry still lags behind in terms of general health and safety. Mining workers still feel largely at risk of working in one of the world’s most dangerous industries.
Australia’s national science research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has tirelessly been at the forefront of this issue. Over the years, it has invested in several projects to promote and enhance safety in the industry, including remote tracking technologies and smart drones to help map underground mines.
In more recent times, the organisation has revealed a new innovation: a laser-based scanner known as ExScan. ExScan has the potential to allow workers to map out mines all from the surface, which will eliminate the need for workers or technology such as UAV to enter the tunnels.
ExScan has already been trialled at mining majors including Glencore and has been developed in line with all safety requirements put forward by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The new laser scanner has huge potential to make a massive impact in Australia’s mining industry, which will enhance safety and efficiency whilst eliminating the need for other, less useful technologies.
The scanner is compact, measuring in at around 25 centimetres tall with a clear polycarbonate dome on the top which has the ability to penetrate rock and mineral deposits in order to ‘see’ considerably further than conventional GPS systems.
The project’s most impressive technological accomplishment in terms of safety is the design of the ExScan’s casing which CSIRO has described as the “real innovation”. ExScan is set to eliminate many of the safety concerns that exist in today’s mining industry in Australia, such as the threat of explosions.
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Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”