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Explore unique virtual mine

Published: 20 September 2018

Wherever you are in the world, you can go down to the virtual underground mine created by researchers at Luleå University of Technology. The experience brings you a thousand feet below ground and you can move independently between the shaft and the hallways.

The virtual mining environment is being developed in collaboration between university researchers in Mining and Rock Engineering and Visual Arts - the latter usually work against international computer game and VFX companies.

Hakan Vallin

– This is one of the most comprehensive VR environments we have ever made and it is unique in its kind. We provide a virtual mine with all ingredients, which gives a complete mine experience that is really good. We create something mmersive and visually exciting, Håkan Vallin says, researcher in Visual Arts at Luleå University of Technology.

One of the tasks of the SIMS mining technology project (more about SIMS in the article next to this) is to spread knowledge about the future mining system that should be sustainable and intelligent, which may mean fewer people underground and more automation for drilling, loading, blasting and loading.

Show how a mine actually looks

With the new VR mine, not only can you demonstrate and communicate new high tech solutions and a safer working environment, but also show the public what a mine actually looks like - now and in the future. With VR glasses on the nose and controls in the hands, the virtual visitor can move in the mine above ground, at the main level of these service functions, but also at the actual production level. It is at the level of the mine where you drill, blow, load, scrap, load and reinforce - a place few visitors have the opportunity to experience in reality.

– The VR mine will give the visitors a sense of presence. We are not looking for accuracy, but it should be credible. Geologically, it will feel like there's actually a mine. We did study visits in LKAB's mine in Malmberget, where we looked at dimensions, textures, fasteners, fan systems and various details. You make notes and photos, Håkan Vallin, says.

Close meetings with the industry

The structure of the rock wall, detail and height and shape has been worked out through frequent meetings between researchers and mining industry; artists and rock mechanics.

–We have not built up a whole mine, but an optimal mine from the viewpoint of education and teaching, and we have listened to the wishes of being able to ride a lift into the mine, that there should be a dressing room where you wear work clothes and protective equipment and a control room with a precise amount of displays, Håkan Vallin, says.

In the future, the VR mine will be further developed, including interactions and multi-user functionality.

–I am most pleased that everyone in the project is so pleased with the result and visual quality we have received thanks to the cross-disciplinary cooperation we have had. We can build VR environments, but it is important to get the right information, to concretize and to expand and limit where you have to, Håkan Vallin, says.

The VR environment will be available via the SIMS website