Mineral Resources Ltd (MRL) says it has partnered with Hexagon to develop an autonomous road train solution as part of a plan to unlock “stranded tonnes” in the Pilbara of Western Australia.
Part of its mining services infrastructure supply chain solution, the autonomous road trains will form an essential part of the cost-efficient supply chain for the Ashburton Hub iron ore project, MRL said.
To support the development of the 30 Mt/y Ashburton Hub, the company plans to run a fleet of 425 t Gross Combination Mass (GCM), triple-trailer road trains operating across multiple convoys, with each road train convoy consisting of up to five prime mover trucks, with three trailers each, hauling the ore from the mine site to the Port of Ashburton.
The autonomous road train solution integrates Hexagon’s drive-by-wire technology with an autonomous management system to orchestrate vehicle movement, MRL explained. A successful pilot project is already underway at MRL’s Yilgarn operations (pictured) using 385 t GCM triple-trailer road trains, which have been tailored for the specific economic constraints of iron ore and other bulk commodities. During the next two years, the testing will continue, ramping up to 425 t GCM in time for the development of the Ashburton Hub project in the December quarter of 2023.
In this final configuration, a remote operations centre would monitor the trucks, with one operator in control of the platoon.
“An autonomous road train configuration of this scale is a world first and reflects MRL’s approach to continuous improvement and innovation,” it said. “We will initially adopt the technology for our own operations, with a view to offering the solution to our large Tier One customer base, further growing MRL’s mining services business.”
Mike Grey, MRL’s Chief Executive – Mining Services, said: “MRL has always been at the forefront of providing innovative and low-cost mining services solutions. In recent years, we have implemented a number of new technologies which have enhanced the safety and operational efficiency of our long-distance road train haulage fleet, reducing the risks of driver fatigue and increasing fleet availability. The autonomous road trains will take us to the next level again. They provide a safe, cost-efficient solution for hauling ore, which is key to unlocking stranded tonnes in the Pilbara.”
He added: “Being part of the MRL Group, our Mining Services division is in a really good position to trial all of our new technologies on our own mine sites prior to offering additional services to our customers. Our autonomous road trains, combined with our other innovations, are all part of our growth strategy to expand our capability to provide full pit-to-ship, low-cost infrastructure solutions.”