Asturias uses old mines for technological revolution

by admin

Asturias has presented an innovative plan to convert old mines into data centres and other technological initiatives. Since today’s economy revolves around storing and managing data, data centres are popular investments for regions looking for economic progress.

However, attracting these types of companies is usually not without controversy. They use enormous amounts of water to cool all the equipment that ensures that the population can surf without any problems and can contact AI with questions. An example of this is Meta’s planned mega data centre in Talavera de la Reina, Toledo.

Underground and sustainable

Asturias wants to tackle the three major challenges of data centres – energy supply, space and cooling – by utilising old mines underground. Iván Aitor Lucas, Director of Innovation, Research and Digital Transformation of the region, explains more about a possible sustainable solution. The establishment of a data centre in the old Pozo Santiago mine in Aller is being considered. This can both increase the storage capacity for the regional government and set an example for private initiatives.

Benefits of underground data centres

By placing data centres in old mines, industrial space remains available for other companies. This is a major advantage compared to cities like Madrid, where industrial estates are used for data centres, at the expense of other activities. In addition, Asturias has high-voltage electricity connections, which is a great advantage for medium-sized data centres participating in broader projects.

Efficient cooling with mine water

An important advantage of the underground mines is the available water, which can be used for cooling. The mines currently contain approximately 80 hectometres of water, suitable for industrial use. Energy can be saved by using this water for cooling and then pumping it back. This approach minimises energy consumption for cooling, which is a significant advantage over traditional data centres.

The regional government of Asturias is preparing various tender phases and drawing up a preliminary design for the engineering. According to Iván Aitor Lucas, investors have already shown interest in the project. The region is well connected with major data centres in Bilbao and Madrid, making Asturias an attractive location.

Economic and technological benefits

The construction of these data centres will provide opportunities for highly qualified workers in the technology and AI sector in the region plagued by depopulation. Moreover, the region positions itself as progressive in breathing new life into old infrastructure with innovative solutions. The transition from polluting coal mines to sustainable data mines thus contributes to technological progress in the region.

Other initiatives in old mines

Not only data centres will provide a new impetus for the abandoned mine shafts. The regional government is also working with other initiatives to use the region’s extensive network of mining galleries, which extend up to 600 metres deep, as platforms for the new technological revolution. An example is a research laboratory at the Pozo Santiago mine (Aller) aimed at developing technology for habitable lunar settlements. This project is carried out in collaboration with the Institute of Space Sciences and Technologies of the University of Oviedo. At the Pozo Barredo and Mariana mine (Mieres), research is being conducted into the production of green hydrogen using the abundant underground water resources. Finally, underground greenhouses are being set up in the Pozo Carrio mine (Laviana) for hydroponic vegetable cultivation. Researchers here take advantage of the stable temperature and humidity conditions in the mine galleries.

The Asturian mining tradition

Asturias is known for its rich mining tradition. Coal mines in particular have played an important role in Spain’s industrial history. Mining in Asturias started in the Middle Ages. However, it was not until the 18th century that scientific knowledge about the properties of coal from this region increased. In the 19th century, systematic exploitation of the mines began, with various state laws and policies introduced for this purpose. The Cuencas Mineras, or Mining Basins, in Asturias include the valleys of the Nalón and Caudal rivers, and their tributaries. These soon became among the most industrialized areas of Spain, with a strong focus on coal and steel production.

Decline of mining industry

The creation of companies such as the Asturian Mining Company and the Siderúrgica de La Felguera in the 19th century led to an increase in coal mining and the expansion of numerous secondary industries. In the 1960s, the mining industry began to decline, eventually leading to the closure of nearly fifty mines. Some of these mines subsequently underwent a transformation from the primary sector to the service sector. An example of this is the Museo de la Minería y de la Industria de Asturias (MUMI) in El Entrego, founded in the former mine of San Vicente in El Entrego.

Also read: Huge data centres accelerate drought in Spain

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