Robotic mapping of submerged mines in proximity to active mines
Conversation @CMU RI 030203
Regulations disallow new mining closer than 200-foot proximity to old workings. This is especially important where old workings are down-dip, and where water roofs out old mines that threaten the new. Since old maps may be inaccurate, incomplete or nonexistent, it is important to determine the exact extent and location of old mines to preclude breaching and indundation of new mines. Geotechnical techniques are not reliable for such accurate mapping, and it is not possible to send humans into abandoned mines to confirm old surveys.
The particular regions of interest are often the extremities of old workings that are proximate to new mines, hence there is value in the capability of mapping terminal regions more than the entire mine layout. Terminal regions may be a few entries (a few hundred feet) wide and a few crosscuts (a few hundred feet) long.
Robotic mapping holds the prospect to accurately and reliably map the terminations of submerged, abandoned mines. These areas are less likely to be cluttered with equipment and stops than areas close to the portal. The importance for mapping and the lack of clutter motivate the use of robots to map these areas. We envision borehole-deployed submarines that can range a few hundred feet to cover regions of interest. Submarine locomotion is advantaged for efficient mobility versus rolling traverse. Submerged sonar is advantaged for modeling mines, estimating self-position, and navigating to move and map. Submergence has the advantage of buoyancy, which could make tethered solutions viable.
The relevance of need, the technical advantages of mobility and sensing, the weakness of competing approaches, and the ease of borehole deployment combine to motivate the development of mine mapping submarines.