In early June 2022, the first four of a fleet of 41 290 t Komatsu 930E haul trucks began autonomous operations at BHP’s South Flank iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia – with the trucks controlled from a purpose-built control facility at the site. The transition to autonomous haulage is expected to be completed at South Flank by September 2023.
Since July 2020, a fleet of Komatsu 930E autonomous-ready haul trucks, configured as conventionally driven trucks, has been moving iron ore and materials. In January 2022, BHP approved moving the US$3.6 billion mine to autonomous haulage, to be phased in across five Autonomous Operation Zones (AOZs), from June 2022.
“All 41 of the 930E’s on site are now in the process of being upgraded to fully autonomous operation, at the rate of four a month,” said Garry Povah, Komatsu’s General Manager Mining Automation. According to Povah, Komatsu is on track to have over 430 autonomous trucks operating in Australia by the end of 2022, in mines across Western Australia and Queensland.
“Komatsu’s autonomous technology helps drive job creation, with a focus on safety, diversity, upskilling and an innovative flexible work force that meets the needs of people and communities with business goals,” says Sean Taylor, CEO & Managing Director, Komatsu Australia. “Not only does Komatsu’s autonomous haulage technology have a proven record in safety, productivity and lower haulage costs, but we pride ourselves on our ground-breaking contributions to autonomous technology solutions in the industry.”
BHP has stated the introduction of autonomous haulage at South Flank is expected to deliver far-reaching safety, production and equipment utilisation and reliability benefits, and offers new skills and opportunities for BHP’s mining and maintenance teams.
South Flank is located 156 km north-west of Newman and 9 km south of BHP’s Mining Area C facility in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is Australia’s largest new iron ore mine in more than 50 years. When it merges with the neighbouring Mining Area C operation, it will form the largest operating iron ore hub in the world, producing 145 Mt of iron ore each year.