South Flank’s fifth Autonomous Operating Zone (AOZ) has gone live, marking the completion of the original project scope for implementation of autonomous haulage at the major miner’s newest iron ore mine, BHP says.
The project has been safely delivered ahead of schedule and under budget, testament to the hard work and dedication of the embedded project teams from Western Australia Asset Projects, IPRO (Integrated Production and Remote Operations) and TROC (Technology Remote Operations Centre), Komatsu technical support, and South Flank’s Mining Production and Mobile Equipment Maintenance teams, it added.
Through their coordinated efforts, South Flank is now fully autonomous for its primary haul fleet, with 41 Komatsu 930e haul trucks converted and around 185 pieces of ancillary equipment able to operate safely around them in the site’s five Autonomous Operating Zones (AOZs).
“The carefully phased approach we took to bringing autonomous haulage online has ensured a safe transition through the complications of a mixed operation,” Steve Campbell, General Manager of South Flank, said.
“With our on-site IPRO facility at full capacity and both primary crushers accepting autonomous dumping, we can now start to bed in the productivity, cost and maintenance improvements that autonomous haulage delivers through the increased truck hours and more consistent cycle times. I am confident that more improvements will be realised as we optimise autonomous haulage across South Flank.”
South Flank committed to transitioning to autonomous haulage in January 2022, less than a year after first production, and began converting the first trucks in April that year, as well as recruiting and training for the new roles required for autonomous haulage operation. Many of the mine’s existing employees have been upskilled, BHP added.
The first AOZ went live in June 2022, and project scope has been steadily progressed since then, including construction of the temporary on-site IPRO facility, upgrades to network infrastructure and the delivery of almost 3,000 training modules to enable people to work safely in and around the autonomous fleet. The project team continue to support Autonomous Haulage at South Flank during optimisation and ramp up.
South Flank is 156 km northwest 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.