Roll out of autonomous haulage system at Roy Hill creating world’s largest single autonomous mine

Iron ore miner Roy Hill has announced it will expand its autonomous haulage system (AHS) from March 2023, converting its mixed fleet of 96 conventional haul trucks to driverless operation and creating the world’s largest autonomous mine. This is an increase from the 77 trucks originally set to be converted to running autonomously.

Over three years ago Gina Rinehart, Executive Chair Roy Hill and majority owner Hancock Prospecting together with her executives, travelled overseas to meet with autonomous operators and chose to recommend global mining equipment and solutions provider Epiroc and automation specialist ASI Mining to the Roy Hill Board. Since then, Roy Hill, Epiroc and ASI have worked in partnership to develop a worldfirst autonomous haul truck solution that’s interoperable and scalable regardless of manufacturer, so OEM agnostic.

The project’s Production Verification phase is complete and ten converted haul trucks fitted with vehicle automation kits and in cab clients are using ASI Mining’s Mobius traffic management and onboard automation systems to navigate the mine’s virtual map, communicating with ancillary vehicles and the Control Room.

Roy Hill says the AHS fleet is meeting the desired safety and productivity metrics and achieving higher productivity rates than the conventional haul truck fleet, which were key objectives of the program over the past two years. Autonomous haul trucks are running 24/7 in a dedicated autonomous operating zone, interacting safely with two excavators and numerous ancillary vehicles at intersections, waste dumps and load areas.

The project’s progressive expansion will see autonomous haul truck numbers grow steadily from March 2023 and throughout 2023. The autonomous fleet will comprise 54 Caterpillar 793F trucks, 24 Hitachi EH5000 trucks and 18 Hitachi EH4000 trucks. In addition, more than 200 modified ancillary vehicles will interact with the autonomous haul trucks.

“Roy Hill’s in a strong position to continue its transition to autonomous haulage early this year with our teams on site and at the Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Perth now skilled in autonomous operations,” said Veldsman.

“Our Executive Chairman, Mrs Gina Rinehart, and our owners Hancock Prospecting, Marubeni, POSCO and China Steel Corporation, have supported Roy Hill’s Smart Mine automation journey from the start with their continued commitment to our people and the safe productivity offered by Roy Hill’s Smart Mine vision,” he added.

ASI Chief Executive Mel Torrie said: “While this milestone achievement enables Roy Hill to rapidly expand their AHS capacity, it also represents a major signal to the rest of the mining community. It signifies that our OEM agnostic Mobius autonomous haulage system has reached a level of performance and maturity that can now provide value to the broader market.”

Epiroc’s President and CEO Helena Hedblom said: “The groundbreaking automation work together with Roy Hill and ASI Mining over the past couple of years has been successful and very exciting. The team working on this is doing a fantastic job, and we are now looking forward to collaborating with Roy Hill in ultimately achieving the world’s largest autonomous mine. This will bring significant benefits for both safety and productivity.”

Roy Hill added that it remains committed to supporting its people impacted by the project, with reskilling and redeployment programs in place to help operators transition to new roles. “Our people are critical to our success and for Roy Hill, the Smart Mine pathway is all about creating a
workplace that sets our people up for success, now and in the future,” said CEO Gerhard Veldsman.

He adds: “As we grow and expand our operations over the next few years, we are going to need lots of people and different skillsets to run our operations. This is an example of Roy Hill using innovative solutions to meet the challenges of an extremely tight labour market, while supporting our people with retraining and helping them transition into other critical roles of the business. Today you may be a truckie, tomorrow you might be an apprentice or ship loader operator, as we continue to build the best mining company in Australia.”