Fortescue Metals Group has celebrated an important milestone in the rollout of autonomous haulage technology at its Chichester Hub operations, in the Pilbara of Western Australia, with the conversion of its 100th autonomous truck.
The full conversion of 108 haul trucks at the Chichester Hub, which comprises the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines, is expected to be completed in September 2020, it said.
Since the introduction of Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology at Fortescue in 2012, 168 trucks have been converted across the company’s Solomon and Chichester Hubs. This has seen Fortescue’s autonomous haul fleet move around 1,400 Mt of material and achieve a greater than 30% increase in productivity levels (compared with previous manned fleets), it said.
Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Fortescue’s AHS deployment represents the largest fleet conversion to autonomous haulage in the industry.
“Our history of embracing leading-edge technology has ensured Fortescue remains at the lowest end of the global cost curve and remains fundamental to driving sustained productivity and efficiency improvements across our business to ensure we continue to deliver enhanced returns for our shareholders and key stakeholders.
“Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology has improved safety outcomes across our operations and we’re very pleased that the Automated Mining Projects team has also achieved this important milestone in the truck conversion program with zero harm to any team members.”
Workforce skills development has been a key aspect of Fortescue’s automation project, it said, with the company’s training and redeployment program successfully transferring or upskilling team members to new roles across the business.
“Training is at the heart of everything we do at Fortescue and as we continue the integration of autonomous trucks across our sites, this ethos has guided our efforts to ensure no redundancies due to automation and to deliver significant benefits to employees from the opportunities offered by this project,” Gaines said.
Fortescue was the first company in the world to deploy Cat autonomous haulage on a commercial scale at the Solomon Hub. It was also the first in the world to retrofit Command for Hauling (part of Caterpillar’s MineStar technology) on a Cat 789D and Komatsu 930E haul truck.
The iron ore miner’s fleet of 168 autonomous trucks have now travelled in excess of 47 Mkm since AHS was first introduced – the equivalent of 65 return trips to the moon.
And, as part of the Chichester Hub automation project, 549,500 parts have been fitted to date across 100 trucks.