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Shanghai Jiao Tong University achieves record 4,000-meter deep-sea mining vehicle trials

By Zheng Zheng | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-07-09 23:40

The 14-ton Pioneer II is designed for operations at depths of up to 6,000 meters. [Photo by Zheng Zheng/chinadaily.com.cn]

The Pioneer II deep-sea mining vehicle, which was independently developed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, has succeeded in reaching a depth of 4,102.8 meters, marking the first time a Chinese heavy-loaded mining vehicle has operated at depths in excess of 4,000 meters.

During the trials, the 14-ton Pioneer II, which is designed for operations at depths of up to 6,000 meters, conducted five dives, including one at the 4,000-meter level and four at the 2,000-meter level, and retrieved more than 200 kilograms of polymetallic nodules, crusts, and bedrock samples from the seafloor.

"This marks the first time a Chinese deep-sea heavy-loaded mining vehicle has operated at depths exceeding 4,000 meters, and it set six new domestic records in the deep-sea mining field," explained Yang Jianmin, the chief scientist of the sea trials and a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of Ocean and Civil Engineering.

One of the most notable achievements of the vehicle is its advanced traversal technology, which enables safe and stable operations on steep slopes exceeding 30 degrees and conducted over soft, deep-sea sediments.

"This capability is crucial for navigating the complex terrain of the deep ocean floor, ensuring efficient and effective mineral extraction," Yang said.

The Pioneer II also introduces a multi-mineral composite drilling and mining technique, which allows for the efficient extraction and collection of various types of minerals.

Intelligent precision control technology is another key feature of the Pioneer II, facilitating intelligent path planning, tracking, obstacle avoidance, and centimeter-level positioning accuracy during deep-sea operations.

The trials also marked a significant advancement in deployment and recovery techniques. The successful use of an innovative nonmetallic cable system for deploying and recovering heavy payloads at 4,100 meters set new domestic benchmarks for safety and working load capacity.

The Pioneer II is equipped with advanced environmental monitoring systems for comprehensive assessments of seafloor plume dispersion, underwater noise, and other environmental impacts, providing data for sustainable deep-sea mineral exploration and green mining practices.

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