Mining, mineral processing, and mini-machines

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 1057, 2002

W.S. Dunbar and B. Klein, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia

A mini- or micro-machine is a small electro-mechanical device. There are several existing applications of micro-sensors such as the accelerometers used in automobile airbags or the force sensors and grippers used at the ends of micro-surgery tools. Potential applications of existing mini- and micro-technologies are possible and could be used to improve the control and efficiency of fragmentation, heap leaching and other mining and mineral processing operations. A more radical proposition is to devise mass-produced, possibly disposable, mini-machines that would operate in large groups. These would be the basis of highly selective, efficient, flexible, and clean mining and mineral processing methods. The paper is intended to promote discussion of how innovative applications of mini-technologies can be used to improve and radically change current mining and mineral processing methods.