Within the mine we see large numbers of small vehicles operating at speed, and without human drivers. Technology originally designed by NASA to guide the Mars Rover, and newer planetary probes on the moons of Jupiter are now being used by these vehicles. The vehicles are multi-purpose and directly access the mine plan (updated daily by planning software and mine engineers working in the capital city) and using collaborative machine to machine protocols to determine the most efficient way to deliver against the day's mining targets. The vehicles self-configure as micro-haulers, drill and blast vehicles, or road maintenance vehicles in the morning, and can change configuration throughout the day as the mine operating plan changes dynamically in response to the day’s events.
All of the vehicles are electric, powered by onboard hydrogen fuel cells. A large part of the mine operation is the generation of hydrogen for fuel cells. This is achieved using a combination of renewable sources: solar power, wind power and hot rock geothermal power which is used to produce hydrogen from water. Hydrogen is stockpiled so that it is available for use at all hours of the day and night. The entire mine operates with zero emissions, and all water is recycled. In this mine, ground water is desalinated using waste heat from the hydrogen plant so that water lost to the environment through evaporation and water vapour from the hydrogen cells, is replaced. (A further consequence of this is that groundwater salinity problems of the last century are being clawed back, and the landscape is regenerating).
Finally, this mine uses nanotechnology to extract the copper from the ore. The large chemical leach heaps have been replaced by hybrid bio-mechanical nano-extraction techniques where bacteria sized cyber-organisms are bred in large ponds, migrate into the heaps, directly harvest the copper metal from the ore using biochemical reactions. They incorporate the copper into their bodies and then move to an extraction pond where they die and decompose, leaving elemental copper that can be easily recovered from the pond.