The underground is a much neglected but essential environment. It is the source of all of our metals and minerals, shapes our landscapes, provides water, heat and cooling, and controls the composition of soils.

£4 million Deep Digital Cornwall project launched to unlock underground environment

The underground environment is the subject of a major new £4 million project launched to create a world-leading cluster of research-intensive digital businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The pioneering project, called Deep Digital Cornwall, led by the Camborne School of Mines (CSM) with the Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Exeter, will conduct research and champion innovation with 40 of the region’s SMEs.

With grant funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the project benefits from three delivery partners: Cornish Lithium, Cornwall Resources Limited (CRL) and the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SWCoESA).

A new physical research hub will be created on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, offering a state-of-the-art 3D modelling and visualisation suite with dedicated researchers, innovators and business development specialists.

The underground is a much neglected but essential environment. It is the source of all of our metals and minerals, shapes our landscapes, provides water, heat and cooling, and controls the composition of soils.

Deep Digital Cornwall will carry out research into digital technologies and, in partnership with regional SMEs, develop new digital products, processes and services to enhance SME offerings to sectors including mining, geothermal, civil engineering, surveying and water resources, heritage, planning and more.  With a rich mining heritage and a renewed national interest in georesources, Deep Digital Cornwall will leverage the region’s unique research skills, collaborations and SME network, to boost regional economic growth.

CRL will provide Redmoor as a field site for acquisition of new geochemistry and geophysical data, which will then be provided to the Deep Digital Cornwall data centre. Cornish Lithium bring expertise in new data collection, digitising data, and identifying and developing opportunities for the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. SWCoESA will help SMEs develop and commercialise Space technologies and beneficial satellite applications.

Professor Frances Wall, lead academic from CSM, said: “This is such an exciting opportunity to expand the digital skills and information related to the underground. Our cluster of local companies work all over the world, at a time when there is an urgent need for new metals that are essential for the transition to net zero emissions.”

Dr Matt Eyre, Senior Lecturer in Mining Engineering/Intelligent Mining at Camborne School of Mines said: “The management of mineral resources is essential to ensure sustainable growth, with resource efficiency at its heart. The DDC project is an exciting development to push the boundaries of digital data capture and interpretation to optimise assets. The outputs of the project can have wide reaching effects in an ever more technologically focused digital world.”

Professor Neil Gow, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Impact) at the University of Exeter added: We are delighted to be leading this incredibly exciting and unique project that will leverage our world leading research, natural resources and collaborative partnerships to create a new generation of digital businesses. This ambitious project is extremely timely as the demand for improved understanding of our georesources is critical to so many industries and communities on a global basis.”

Brett Grist, Exploration Manager of CRL, said: “The CRL team are proud and excited to play a significant role as a delivery partner generating new data for the project, which we believe will contribute significantly to a resurgence of Cornish mining. Success in winning this grant funding builds on our ongoing collaboration with Camborne School of Mines, and will ensure that Cornwall and its rich mineral potential are positioned at the cutting edge of developments in digital data capture, management and interpretation.”

Conrad Gillespie, Centre Manager of the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications said: “We are proud to be a partner in this impactful regional programme, as Space technologies and satellite applications can create operational efficiencies within the mining sector, enable autonomous vehicles within extreme environments, empower local communities, and help environmental sustainability.”

Lucy Crane, Senior Geologist at Cornish Lithium, said: “Deep Digital Cornwall is a fantastic opportunity to develop our understanding of what lies beneath our feet in Cornwall. Cornwall has an amazing mining heritage, but this project will bring Cornwall’s relationship with the subsurface right into the 21st century. Our technical team brings expertise in digital subsurface data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and is looking forward to working closely with CSM and CRL to develop these capabilities further.”

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Date: 15 February 2021