The J.I. Clark Chair is supported by INCO in the development of innovative sensor and telerobotic technology for  increased mine productivity and safety.  Some of the research and development has been carried out with the support of PRECARN Associates.

To learn more about the R&D partners visit 


To learn more about telerobotic mining at INCO visit       What is Telemining?

To read about the INCO mining automation work in the MIT Technology Review visit      


The following is an overview of the MALTA development by PRECARN Associates......




Phase 2 Projects 


Mining Automated Loader Technology Application (MALTA)




Inco Ltd., Sudbury, ON

DYI Technologies, Ottawa, ON

(Project Leader: Andrew Young)

C-CORE, St.-John’s, NF

Automated Mining Systems, Sudbury, ON

Bell Canada, Montreal, QC

Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON

University of Western Ontario, London, ON

Total Investment: $2,140,000

PRECARN Contribution: $700,000

Start: June 1998

End: June 2000


MALTA will develop a system to automatically recognize material in an underground ore pile and automatically load the bucket of a scoop. MALTA will also test remote mining using this scoop in combination with other pieces of automated mining equipment.

The MALTA software will use advanced pattern recognition algorithms combined with decision making pattern analysis to decide if, and how, ore can be removed from the pile.


MALTA will develop intelligent software to recognize and decide how to load ore in an underground mine. This software will be installed in commercial level prototype hardware and mounted on a scoop. The automated scoop will be tested locally and remotely in combination with other pieces of automated mining equipment at Inco's Research Mine.

Technology & Benefits

A mine scoop performs three basic operations: i) loading ore at a draw point ii) transiting down the drift to the drop point and iii) unloading the ore. Inco has been using teleoperators to load and dump the ore and is using Automated Mining Systems' control system to automatically transit the drift. The technology being developed in this project will automate the ore loading activity with work planned for automating ore dumping to follow at a later date.

Automating the ore loading process will not be easy. Visualization conditions in the ore loading area are terrible: lighting is low and can be highly reflected; the ore can be wet and the air can be extremely dusty; and ore particle size varies tremendously or there can be no ore at all. The MALTA system will use advanced perception algorithms but, since the visualization problem is so complex, the system will also be able to call for help and will be able to learn not only from its own experiences but also from a human operator.

Loading ore involves more than just "seeing" where it is. To successfully load a complete bucket of ore, the scoop must be correctly orientated relative to the ore pile to properly attack it. MALTA will use its visualization and analysis capabilities to "decide" the correct orientation of the scoop and reposition it prior to starting the bucket loading process.

With automated loading and transiting in place, the mine scoop is close enough to full automation that remote mining trials can also be performed. The MALTA project will use the scoop to test remote mining as well as to use the scoop as part in an overall test of automating the mining process.

The MALTA project would not be successful without the involvement of a wide range of disciplines:

The ability to develop and implement software that perceives ore under very poor conditions and then makes decisions about the best strategy to pick this ore up

The ability to develop, implement and test mine hardened computers

The ability to implement and test new telecommunications capabilities to support remote mining processes

A working research mine to test research outcomes

No one company has all these capabilities although the MALTA team does.