Fortescue looks for further efficiencies with AHS retrofit, mobile conveying

In what was a strong June quarter in terms of iron ore production, Fortescue Metals Group gave an update on its autonomous haulage (AHS) project at the Chichester Hub operations and the installation of a relocatable conveyor at Cloudbreak.

The company shipped 46.5 million tonnes of ore from its Pilbara operations during the quarter, up 4% year-on-year, at a close-to-unchanged C1 cash cost of $12.17 per tonne (wet).

Mining, processing, rail and shipping combined to operate at or near record rates during the three-month period, helping the company reach its goal of shipping 170 Mt during the 2018 financial year to the end of June.

The company would have been helped by an increasing number of autonomous haul trucks operating at Chichester Hub during the quarter. Fortescue noted that 19 trucks had been converted and were in operation, through an agreement with Caterpillar, out of the over 100 it plans on retrofitting.

Since the introduction of AHS technology at its Solomon mine in 2013, automated trucks have moved over 500 Mt of material and achieved a greater than 30% increase in productivity levels.

Last month, the company noted its relocatable conveyor, manufactured by RCR Tomlinson, had been instaled at Cloudbreak. In the June quarter results, FMG said full capacity was due to be achieved in November.

The 5-km conveyor includes a semi-mobile primary crushing station and feeds directly into the Cloudbreak ore processing facility. The relocatable conveyor and semi-mobile crushing facilities can be positioned approximate to pits and relocated once mined.

By providing greater flexibility and increased accessibility to remote mine pits, the relocatable conveyor will reduce haulage costs, offsetting rising strip ratios and delivering sustained efficiency improvements across the business. FMG expects the conveyor to replace 12 trucks at full capacity.