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The MINETRAIN Project: Developing an Advanced Level Training Program for Mining Industry Professionals in an Active Deep Mine Site

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In an extremely competitive mining industry, onsite experience is a big advantage. Mining education at the universities is mostly focused on theoretical studies without a possibility of practical training in mining sites. Hence, experimental mines suitable for practical education are needed to provide a platform for systematic research and education in industrial scale and for training in real mining conditions. Yet, this kind of mine sites is rare worldwide. Thus, a new educational research project, namely MINETRAIN is introduced in this paper evaluating the transition of the Pyhäsalmi mine in Central Finland from an active base metal mine to a research, educational and training underground facility. The uniqueness of MINETRAIN compared to other test mine programs is that the existing state-of-art infrastructure in Pyhäsalmi enables research and training facilities among all disciplines related to the overall mine value chain. Though all the above sound interesting in the context of research and education purposes, in practice Pyhäsalmi will have to become an experimental mine that can be sustainable in the future. Accordingly, a prefeasibility study is being conducted and some preliminary results are presented in this paper.
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Preprint 19-061
THE MINETRAIN PROJECT: DEVELOPING AN ADVANCED LEVEL TRAINING PROGRAM FOR MINING INDUSTRY
PROFESSIONALS IN AN ACTUAL DEEP MINE SITE
G. Barakos, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Freiberg, Germany
M. de P. Bueno, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
S. Luukkanen, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
H. Mischo, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Freiberg, Germany
Z. Zhang, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
M. S. Gonzalez, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
P. Holopainen, Normet Oy, Lisalmi, Finland
A. Remes, Outotec, Lappeenranta, Finland
ABSTRACT
In an extremely competitive mining industry, onsite experience is
a big advantage. Mining education at the universities is mostly focused
on theoretical studies without a possibility of practical training in mining
sites. Hence, experimental mines suitable for practical education are
needed to provide a platform for systematic research and education in
industrial scale and for training in real mining conditions. Yet, this kind
of mine sites is rare worldwide.
Thus, a new educational research project, namely MINETRAIN is
introduced in this paper evaluating the transition of the Pyhäsalmi mine
in Central Finland from an active base metal mine to a research,
educational and training underground facility. The uniqueness of
MINETRAIN compared to other test mine programs is that the existing
stateofart infrastructure in Pyhäsalmi enables research and training
facilities among all disciplines related to the overall mine value chain.
Though all the above sound interesting in the context of research and
education purposes, in practice Pyhäsalmi will have to become an
experimental mine that can be sustainable in the future. Accordingly, a
prefeasibility study is being conducted and some preliminary results
are presented in this paper.
INTRODUCTION
Despite being a field of studies that requires practical knowledge
and experience, mining engineering education follows the same
pattern in most mining universities around the world; consisting of
theoretical courses and laboratory-based practical modules (Mischo,
2015). The possibility of having practical training in real mining
conditions on actual mine sites or processing plants is limited to none,
while the only contact that undergraduate students have with mining
operations during their time of studies is usually through short-time
internships or visits in the context of educational trips. Yet, real
integration between universities and the mining industry may be
scarce, which does not help students to observe the actual processes,
and thus understand the whole picture of mining operations.
Indirect practical training is also possible nowadays that
technology is shifting from mechanical to digital, and the use of virtual
reality -in the context of Mining 4.0- can provide additional experience
to the learning process. However, virtual reality is limited to the visual
impression and is also limited in actions (Binder et al, 2018). In any
case, when there is not a proper pragmatic view of how the different
disciplines link to each other and especially if there is a lack of
communication, unfortunately the results could be seen at a later stage
in the mines as a poor performance of professionals and workers.
Another major challenge for educating specialists in the mining
sector is that experimental mines suitable for practical education,
where the skills and know-how could be developed and/or enhanced
are rare worldwide. Such research and educational (R&E) facilities are
practically former metal ore mines that have been transformed into
experimental sites. Besides being limited in number, not all facilities of
this kind serve both a research and educational purpose.
A first example of solely experimental mines is the Luossavaara-
Kiirunavaara mine site operated by LKAB in Sweden, where a
systematic research on rock mechanics and mining engineering was
successfully carried out in the 1980s. As a result, the developed
underground mining technology was applied in LKAB’s mines at a later
stage. There have also been research mines within collieries (former
mine Lake Macquarie, at New South Wales in Australia and Zeche
Tremonia mine in Germany), but are no longer in operation (Mischo,
2015).
Another example of a former mine that is nowadays used only for
research is SURF (Sanford Underground Research Facility) in South
Dakota, being the deepest underground laboratory in the U.S. (Lesko,
2015). There are also test mines in hard rock that have been
constructed only for research purposes, such as the Sandvik Test Mine
and digital operation center at Tampere, Finland. Furthermore, there
are some former mines in the U.S. that are mainly used as mine
rescue stations and training facilities, such as the NIOSH Lake Lynn
Laboratory, or the NIOSH Bruceton Coal Mine (Bealko et al, 2010).
When it comes to facilities that combine research, education and
training of students and professionals, there are only two such mine
sites known around the world; the Edgar Mine of the Colorado School
of Mines at Idaho Springs in Colorado, U.S. and the FLB Forschungs-
und Lehrbergwerk (Research & Educational Mine) Reiche Zeche of the
TU Bergakademie Freiberg, in Germany (Mischo, 2015).
Currently, there are a handful of R&E mines under construction
such as Rammelsberg of the Clausthal University of Technology at
Goslar and the training mine of RAG Aktiengesellschaft at
Recklinghausen, Germany (Binder et al, 2018), the research site at
Montanuniversität Leoben, in Austria and the Pyhäsalmi mine in
Finland that is discussed in this paper.
The above examples indicate that experimental mines are seen
important not only for research and education in mining-related
disciplines but also for development of mining technology. This is
important especially when looking into the future as mining operations
go deeper and the ores to be processed are of lower grade and have
complex geological structure. The existing infrastructure of an
operating mine provides an excellent and unique opportunity for
training in all disciplines related to the mine value chain in an authentic
environment.
However, operating and maintaining an experimental mine is
costly. It may not raise costs as high as that of an active mine, but at
the same time it does not have same revenues generated as when
marketing extracted ore. For this reason, adequate funding must be
secured for the viability of Pyhäsalmi, given that it will be transformed
to a research and educational mine. Hence, a preliminary economic
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assessment report was conducted in the context of MINETRAIN,
indicating that the transformation of the underground mine to an
experimental and training facility is feasible and that this project will be
viable.
THE PYHÄSALMI MINE
Pyhäsalmi is one of the oldest active underground mines in
Europe and at the time of writing this paper the deepest also (approx.
at 1,450m). The mine is located at Pyhäjärvi, in Central Finland and
produces copper, zinc and pyrite. Operations started in 1962 by
Outokumpu Oyj, who sold to Immet Mining Corporation in 2002, while
since 2013 the mine is owned by First Quantum Minerals Ltd. and is
operated by its subsidiary Pyhäsalmi Mine Oy (Jalas et al, 2017).
Pyhäsalmi was initially developed as an open pit mine until 1967,
when underground mining operations commenced (Sahala, 2016). In
1975 surface mining ended and since then a network of hundreds of
kilometers of tunnels have been excavated in the granite rock bed
down to the depth of 1,441 m (Figure 1).
In 1970, mining operations had already reached the depth of
500m, while gradual deepening down to 1,000m was accomplished in
1996 (Luukkonen, 2011). Further exploration later this year resulted in
finding additional resources even deeper, and thus a further
development plan was initiated. In 2001 Outokumpu Oyj completed
construction of “Timo Shaft”, a 1,450m deep automated hoisting shaft,
from the surface down to the main (bottom) level, while at the same
time the development of the ramp continued to reach the same depth
(Sahala, 2016; Jalas et al, 2017). Nowadays, the main level is
accessible either by a three-minute elevator ride or by vehicles using
the 11km long spiral-shaped service road.
Besides supporting mining operations, the main level hosts
excellent facilities for a series of activities, such as vehicle
maintenance, storage facilities, workshops, rooms for teaching and
conferencing, mobile phone network and an optical cable connection,
which provides high speed internet access also for the intermediate
levels (Jalas et al, 2017). Following the Finnish tradition, there is even
a sauna inside the mine, giving Pyhäsalmi a place among Guinness
world record holders for housing the deepest sauna in the world at
1,402m (Callio Lab, 2018).
CALLIO LAB
Callio Lab is an umbrella organisation for a variety of non-mining
activities in and around the mine. The scope of this project is to take
over for the mine facilities and all associated infrastructure after
operations are ceased, oversee scientific research and development,
and propose new economic activities that will contribute towards the
sustainable development and viable use of the mine site (Jalas et al,
2017). Some research activity is taking place already inside the mine,
parallel to mining operations. Two significant physics projects are
currently using Callio Lab’s facilities (Jalas et al, 2017; Callio Lab,
2018):
Pyhäsalmi has been using non-entry, bulk open-stope mining
methods in a primary-secondary sequence (FQM, 2018). However,
after 56 years of continuous production mining operations are coming
to an end in 2018 (FQM, 2018). Consequently, discussions for the
closure and post-mining utilization of the underground facilities have
started a long time ago (Peltoniemi, 2002). For this reason, Callio Lab
was founded in 2015 by the municipality of Pyhäsarvi and Pyhäsalmi
Mine Oy to oversee the reuse of the mine site after production is
terminated (Jalas et al, 2017; 2018).
The EMMA experiment (Experiment with a Multi-Muon Array)
studies the composition of cosmic ray particles at the depth of 75
m (Lab 1). The experiment brings together Universities of Oulu
and Jyväskylä in Finland, Århus in Denmark, and Institutes of
Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The C14 experiment is measuring C14 concentrations in various
liquid scintillator samples at the depth of 1,430m (Lab 2). The
experiment uses a constructed cylindrical container, which has
Photomultiplier tubes at both ends. The astroparticle physics team
of the University of Oulu is leading this project in collaboration
with Jyväskylä University and the Russian Academy of Sciences
in Moscow.
Figure 1. View of the ore body and development infrastructure at the
Pyhäsalmi mine (Callio Lab, 2018).
Other non-mining activities in Pyhäsalmi include new
technological plant production methods taking place in an experimental
underground farm (Jalas et al, 2018), and the continuous radon tent
testing in Level 990 (Lab 3), aiming to test and develop thin foils that
can be easily assembled in a form of a tent and rapidly construct a
radiation protective environment (Jalas et al, 2017).
A new laboratory space of approximately 120m2 has also been
developed at the main level of the mine and is suitable for example
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studies that require low background (Figure 2). After all, the mine has a
lot of available spaces/caverns at several depths all the way to the
main level at 1,441 m. If required, new large laboratory spaces can be
created. The suitability of the bedrock for new large caverns around
the mine was studied and emphasized in the extensive site
investigations during the 2012-14 biennium (Sahala, 2016; Callio Lab,
2018).
Figure 2. Potential laboratory spaces are created deep inside the
Pyhäsalmi mine (Callio Lab, 2018).
THE MINETRAIN PROJECT
Besides R&D, Pyhäsalmi can host other activities as well. The
cessation of mining operations will not only increase the available
space for research projects; a variety of mining equipment and facilities
will be at the disposal of stakeholders to use as required. Thus,
Pyhäsalmi could also turn into an excellent educational and training
center for students and mining industry professionals. This way, the
demand for new training underground facilities can be met as well.
Hence, an educational project named MINETRAIN initiated in
2018 for the development of an advanced level training program for
mining industry professionals.
MINETRAIN is under the auspices of the European Institute of
Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union under
the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Program for Research &
Innovation. The consortium of the project consists of both academia
and industry partners:
University of Oulu, Finland
TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany
Pyhäsalmi Mine, FQM Ltd., Finland
Outotec Oy, Finland
Normet Oy, Finland
Sandvik Oy, Finland
Schneider Electric, Finland
Project Objectives and Scope
This project aims to develop, pilot, and establish a framework for
commercially feasible training programs for mining professionals by
holding multidisciplinary, practical, lifelong learning educational
courses at the Pyhäsalmi mine. The novelty of this education is that it
will provide learners with a holistic view of the whole mine lifecycle
(Figure 3), as well as opportunities to test both skills and mining
equipment in a real deep mine site. For this reason, a few objectives
have been set:
to design a detailed multidisciplinary course for mining
professionals
to ensure that stringent health & safety standards can be
maintained during the course
to ensure that course personnel and students can be
accommodated at the site so they can plan, carry out and
reflect upon practical assignments there
to ensure the practical viability of holding the course by
testing and training modules at pilot scale
to recruit the first intake of course participants for the lifelong
learning course
to pilot the course successfully
to reflect upon the lessons learned and the implications for
holding future courses at the mine site
Figure 3. Education, research and training perspectives of the whole
mine lifecycle at the Pyhäsalmi mine
Testing Facilities & Infrastructure
When compared to other existing test mine programs, the
uniqueness of MINETRAIN is based on the fact that Pyhäsalmi is a
deep modern metal mine, and that there is state-of-the-art equipment
available to be used for training purposes.
Looking back over the history of the mine one can clearly see that
cutting-edge technologies have always been employed. For instance,
in 2003 Immet initiated a drilling and loading automation project with
Sandvik to test Sandvik’s new technology (Gustafson, 2011).
Resultantly, the mine has been using two Sandvik TORO 11 automatic
LHDs since 2006 in different stoping levels and routes inside the mine
with the operator station located in a van. The company found that
using this system resulted in better working conditions for the
operators, increased safety and better ore recovery from the stopes.
The mineral processing operation is comprised of primary
crushing underground (Figure 4) and three-stage grinding followed by
conventional flotation using three separate circuits with water removal
to produce copper, zinc and pyrite concentrates on the surface. The
concentration plant at Pyhäsalmi will continue its operation for a few
more years after mining activities stop in 2018 (FQM, 2018).
Figure 4. Primary crusher located underground at the Pyhäsalmi mine
(Callio Lab, 2018).
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STRUCTURE OF PILOT TRAINING COURSES
The potential training of mining professionals at Pyhäsalmi will not
be limited to underground mining operations only; possible practical
education in the processing plant will be offered as well. Furthermore,
machine operators and other mining staff can be trained in the
automated LHD system in the mine.
Hence, a first pilot training module will be developed and tested in
the underground facilities in the context of the MINETRAIN project.
This pilot course is expected to have duration of two weeks; the first
week will include theoretical courses via an e-learning platform,
whereas the second week will consist of practical training modules at
the Pyhäsalmi mine.
Both theoretical and practical courses will be given to offer
training in several disciplines of the whole mine lifecycle, following a
downward progression through five stages (Figure 5). Each training
stage will have duration of two days; one day during the first week
(theory) and one day during the second week (practice) respectively.
Hence, stakeholders can identify all potentials of this new research and
educational underground facility.
Figure 5. The structure of the first pilot training module to be tested at
the Pyhäsalmi mine.
The first group of trainees will consist of employees working in
mining related companies, who have general background knowledge in
mining, but have not received training in an underground mine site
before. This is a good reason for the training program to begin with a
health & safety instructions course. An underground mining
environment poses risks even for experienced personnel, not to
mention people who have never worked in such conditions.
Accordingly, the maximum number of trainees for this first module shall
not exceed 15 to 20.
Experienced underground mining and mineral processing
professionals will be recruited to give the theoretical lectures and
practical courses. Such may be academics with experience in teaching
mining in theory, and/or actual employees at the Pyhäsalmi mine that
are familiar with the underground facilities and the operation of the
equipment.
This two-week training program will be structured in a way that it
will provide knowledge and experience to the trainees, as well as a
very good impression of the working conditions in an underground
mine. The outcome of this pilot training program will provide the
consortium of MINETRAIN with extremely useful remarks and
conclusions. This material will be contextualized in order to establish
further training modules in a safe, efficient and sustainable way. While
the first pilot course will provide general knowledge about underground
mining, future training modules can focus on specific areas of mining
operations, or even be customer-tailored depending on the market and
mining industry needs.
PRELIMINARY ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT
Apparently, the transformation of Pyhäsalmi from an active mine
to a research and educational facility is going to be a long and detailed
process. Nevertheless, it is not just issues regarding research and
education that need to be discussed. Economic parameters are to be
evaluated as well, since Pyhäsalmi will have to become a facility that
can sustain itself in the future.
In the 56 years that the mine has been in operation it has had a
massive impact on the region in which it operates, in terms of
revenues, tax income and other associated costs, not to mention the
indirect effects of the mine to the local society. Understandably, the
end of the mine’s life is an event that will affect the economics of the
region including the entity that will take over the management of the
underground and surface facilities.
Potential revenues are being considered from training modules,
research projects, renting of underground spaces and other activities
inside and around the mine site. All these activities will be taking place
under the umbrella of Callio Lab (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Potential activities that can generate revenues for the
Pyhäsalmi Research and Educational facility.
The economic valuation of educational programs and training
modules falls within the scope of MINETRAIN. Hence, a preliminary
economic evaluation is being carried out at the time of writing this
paper. In this early stage, however, only some high level estimation
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has been made to determine the order-of-magnitude for revenues and
costs. Thus, all calculations have an accuracy of ±35%. The level of
accuracy will increase as the project progresses and the education
programs are structured in more detail.
As previously discussed, the first scenario includes a two-week
multidisciplinary course, twice per year. The number of students per
course was estimated to be 10-20, and the cost for each student was
assumed to be €2,500-4,000. Thus, revenue of €97,500/year is
generated.
Another scenario consists six one-week specialization courses,
once a year (e.g. mine rescue operations, training in geophysics,
operators training etc.). The number of students per course was
estimated to be 5-15, and the cost for each student was estimated at
€3,000-5,000. In this case, the revenue is €240,000/year.
Further to the above, a revenue of € ½ -1 million has been
assumed to come from running research projects and from potential
governmental funds. Consequently, total revenue of €1 million/year
(±35%) is estimated.
On the other hand, operating and maintenance costs,
expenditures for the opening of new spaces and other costs should be
taken into account as well. For the cost calculations, data from 50-
month cost-report provided by the mining company have been
analyzed.
One of the biggest issues that the new administration will have to
deal with is pumping water out of the mine. The water pumped out of
the mine is estimated to be one million m3/year, while the electricity
consumption of the underground pumping stations is 2,580 MWh/year.
The respective estimated cost per year is 153,400 (given an
electricity price of € 59.44 /MWh for 2017). Respective calculations for
the annual pumping maintenance costs indicate that €160,900 will
have to be spent every year.
Sludge is another issue at Pyhäsalmi and the cost of sludge
handling is estimated by the mining company to be €91,325 per year.
However, this cost is expected to decrease by about 70% when the
mining operations cease.
At level 600, water is acidic (pH ~ 2.2). By summing up the costs
for water neutralization, investment costs of water treatment equipment
and operating costs, a rough approximation of €600,000 is generated.
When it comes to ventilation, costs include electricity consumption
and maintenance for the fans. When transformed into a research and
training facility, the mine will not have the same ventilation demand as
of an active mine like nowadays. Yet, these costs remain significant.
Further to the ventilation costs, expenditures are generated for
the maintenance of areas (health & safety equipment, shaft hoisting,
fixed and mobile equipment, among others). All these costs are
summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Cost summary for the operation of Pyhäsalmi.
Cost description
Cost (€/year)
Electricity of water pumping
153,000
Maintenance of water pumping
160,900
Electricity for ventilation
18,200
Maintenance of ventilation
106,800
Sludge handling
30,400
Waste water treatment
600,000
Maintenance of areas
60,000
Other indirect costs
70,000
Total
1,199,300
Taking into consideration all cost indexes described above, an
approximate total expenditure of €1.2 million/year is estimated for the
mine only. However, this figure does not include costs associated with
the concentrator and other facilities, neither administration and
overheads costs. Given that the estimated potential revenue from
MINETRAIN are approximately €1 million/year (±35%), it can be
concluded that a unsustainable balance is created and educational and
research programs are not feasible on their own.
Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that o the mine is expected
to have a few other significant sources of revenue generated through
Callio Lab’s other activities, which will contribute to cover the overall
running cost and ensure the sustainability of the future activities in
Pyhäsalmi. But where training courses and research projects are
concerned for potential revenue, a more detailed structure of the
courses will result in more accurate economic analysis, and thus
strengthen the future overall value of the research and training
programs.
CONCLUSIONS
Pyhäsalmi is an extraordinary asset which is not only among the
deepest mines in Europe, but also one of the only ones to possess
access ramps that all vehicles can use to reach the very bottom of the
shaft. The unique size of the mine site and its logistical strengths has
already seen it earmarked as the potential base for a number of
exciting future ventures. These include it being a candidate for hosting
training modules for mining professionals.
There are many areas of specialization in the mining industry that
would benefit from personnel with practical knowledge and experience
gained from training in the real mining conditions of the Pyhäsalmi
mine. Such training would benefit potential industry leaders and
managers, mining and mineral processing engineers, geologists,
surveyors, environmental scientists, machine operators, truck drivers,
electricians, IT experts, health and safety specialists, and others.
Further to this, the combination of having a test mine available
among with highly educated professionals offers an excellent platform
for testing mining equipment as well as for starting a number of
research projects; thus, attracting the mining industry for collaboration.
Besides cooperating with the industry, when established as an
experimental mine, Pyhäsalmi will be able to attend and develop a
worldwide network among other R&E mines, such as the Research &
Educational Mine of TU Bergakademie Freiberg that is also
participating in the MINETRAIN project, towards a continuous
collaboration and evolution of the facilities and organization skills of
experimental and training mine sites.
The transition to a research, educational and training
underground facility is not going to be easy. Ending of production will
lower the revenues significantly, while the costs of the mine will drop
as well. Therefore, careful and detailed assessments need to be made
to assure the viable operation of Pyhäsalmi towards the future.
The preliminary estimations discussed in this paper indicate that
the mine site has the perspectives to sustain itself. Yet, more careful
and precise calculations need to be made. For this reason, well-
structured pilot modules are being developed through the MINETRAIN
project, in order to establish a framework for commercially feasible
training programs at the Pyhäsalmi mine.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support
received for the MINETRAIN research project (2018-2020) from the
European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the
European Union under the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Program
for Research and Innovation.
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Article
Full-text available
A new underground laboratory, Callio Lab, has been established to manage the non-mining related operations in the Pyhäsalmi mine in Pyhäjärvi, Finland. The very deep laboratory space, called Lab 2 of Callio Lab, has been finished in spring 2016 at the depth of 1430 meters (4100 m.w.e.) and it has the area of approximately 120 m² and the height of 8 meters. We present the structure of Callio Lab and the main technical characteristics of the deep Lab 2. We also review the current activities related to astroparticle and radiation physics, such as EMMA muon observatory and C-14 liquid scintillator research. An Open Call process has been opened to invite new scientific experiments to Callio Lab.
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On-site research and development as well as in-situ testing are key factors to the successful implementation of new mining equipment and technology. Unfortunately the demands a n d n e c e s s i t i e s o f research a n d d e v e l o p m e n t often conflict with the reality of mine production in operational mines, especially during early stages of research and development and the initial testing of new equipment. Several experimental mines under university supervision attend to this problem and provide a close-to-reality testing environment for the mining industry and mining equipment manufacturers. This paper gives an overview of the design and organization of such an underground testing area as well as of the wide range of possible operations it can facilitate at the example of the FLB Experimental and Teaching Mine (Forschungs-und Lehrbergwerk) at Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, the central European underground research mine.
Article
The Pyhäsalmi mine will host the first underground laboratory in the Northern Europe. There are lots of free caverns for small and medium size experiments in the old mine 50-1050 m underground, and new facilities can be constructed at the bottom of the new mine at 1410 m underground (4000 mwe). The infrastructure and connections are very good. Currently there are three measurements running, two of them measuring cosmic rays and the third fast neutron background. New experiments are suggested to be placed in the new facilities, including GENIUS, the neutrino factory far detector and a multimuon experiment.
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Pyhäsalmi" www.firstquantum.com/Our-Business/operating-mines/Pyhasalmi
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