Modelling mines and geology
What is this research?
It is incredibly difficult to see and understand the underground. However, society depends upon its resources and many remain untapped, including renewable energy opportunities. The extraction of technology metals is required to enable a transition to Net Zero and geothermal energy has the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and make material contributions to the energy mix in Cornwall. The underground of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly offers these very resources. Lithium, tin and tungsten exist beneath us and are crucial for, e.g., batteries for electric vehicles, solder for electronics and computing, tungsten carbide cutting tools for heavy industry). Cornwall and Isles of Scilly boasts vast pockets of hot rocks and water, with a number of granite outcrops within its borders whose increased concentration of radioactive elements are heat producing; a significant heat resource exists under our feet. Water that floods abandoned mines therefore offers real potential. Modelling mines and geology is constructing a digital and immersive representation of the underground and key surface features of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. It is unlocking the ability to see underground!
What is the purpose of this research?
By seeing the underground and increasing our knowledge about the environment, this research has the ability to influence business and public policy in a wide range of sectors, e.g. construction, planning, energy management, water management, minerals exploration, renewable energy generation, etc. For example, through this research we can better understand which areas offer the best opportunities for district heating using shallow geothermal and minewater. This can be done by visualising the underground water temperature model alongside satellite imagery of urban areas – e.g., Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth (CPIR) – in addition to voids in the ground (mineshafts, tunnels, adits, stopes, etc. from the digitised mine plans). Also, the combination of geological models with mine plans and known mineral lodes will enable more accurate predictions of areas that hold technology metal resources.
Research undertaken by the delivery partners Cornwall Resources (Redmoor, Cornwall) and Cornish Lithium (United Downs, Cornwall) is making important contributions to this research. This research includes soil surveys at both partners (generating geochemical data outputs), gravity and drone surveys at Redmoor, and an airborne electromagnetic survey (AEM) over both sites. This research increases the richness of datasets in these areas and all data are available for public access and viewing within the DDC Visualisation Suite. Businesses eligible for DDC support can use these data and visualisations to spark ideas, innovate and develop new technologies and services.
How will this research be undertaken?
The DDC Impact Fellows, led by Dr Matt Eyre (DDC Academic Lead and Senior Lecturer), have been working hard since October 2022 to digitise mine archives and plans, to recreate this aspect of the underground in the project’s 4D Virtalis-Geovisionary data visualisation suite.
Additionally, Dr Nick Harper (DDC Impact Fellow) has used archive literature of mine rock temperature, along with more recent borehole data and scientific studies to create a digital model that indicates depth to 20 degrees Celsius. Geological models will also feature in this research.
The research outputs are being boosted by the recruitment of 3D Digital Artists, Alex Shacklady and Holly Finch, in December 2022, under the expert guidance of Dr Lingfeng He (DDC Impact Fellow). A camera rig has been set up to effectively and efficiently capture images of 2D physical mine plans, ready for conversion into 3D virtual models for usage within the DDC Visualisation Suite.
Data outputs will be available for public access via firstname.lastname@example.org and in the DDC Visualisation Suite, publicised in news pieces on the DDC website, LinkedIn, Twitter, and will feature in the DDC Digital Assets Catalogue in addition to marketing materials.
Please do get in contact with the team at email@example.com if you are interested in this research or have any queries.
What is DDC?
Deep Digital Cornwall (DDC) is a research project led by the Camborne School of Mines and the Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Exeter (UoE). DDC is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in turn managed by the UK Government Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
The aim of the Deep Digital project is to create a world-leading cluster of research-active, highly innovative businesses applying digital solutions to a wide range of business opportunities connected to the underground including mining, geothermal, civil engineering, environmental, surveying, water resources, planning and permitting, heritage, tourism. The project’s delivery partners are conducting research for regional businesses to engage with, use and access, with the aim of stimulating business development opportunities and economic growth in the region.
What is University of Exeter’s relationship with DDC?
University of Exeter is the lead partner and grant recipient for DDC. Along with the project’s delivery partners Cornish Lithium, Cornwall Resources and South West Centre for Excellence in Satellite Applications. Academic staff and researchers support regional businesses in the development of research projects that will generate new products and services for these businesses. The University was also approved to conduct new research to generate open data (i.e. publicly accessible datasets) in October 2022. This research is one of those research studies.