Glencore starts operation of first autonomous trucks at Minera Lomas Bayas

After launching Lomas Lab on its 25th anniversary, Chilean copper mining company Minera Lomas Bayas says it has continued to successfully develop this technology creation initiative aimed at designing, testing and strengthening the digitisation and automation of production processes at the operation, to then export them to other Glencore sites worldwide.

It recently presented the startup of one of the most iconic projects of this innovation centre, the use of autonomous haul trucks, a major step in the sustainability roadmap of the company, which intends to position itself as an industry leader in this category. The presentation was made after a launch ceremony during which regional authorities, executives, employees and others witnessed live the operation of this new technology for Glencore and Lomas Bayas. It also marked a major milestone as it represented the first autonomous haul trucks for Glencore as a company worldwide.

All the participants were able to learn about the technology in detail and observe remotely operation of the trucks, which meet the highest safety and manoeuverability standards. They are managed by qualified and trained personnel to face new Mining 4.0 challenges. This is another important step towards sustainable development for Lomas Bayas, in addition to the autonomous drills that are already remotely-enabled.

The AHS enabled trucks offer a potential decrease in fuel consumption of up to 4%, a lower frequency of safety events given the high range of sensors in the equipment and the relocation of personnel to safer areas. The trucks also operates for longer hours, improving the use and availability of the truck fleet.

The initial pilot project entails a first stage involving four Komatsu 930E-5 haul trucks, which will use Komatsu’s FrontRunner system for an autonomous day and night shift operation in a circuit of approximately 1 km within an area segregated from the rest of the conventional operation. If this pilot testing succeeds, the project will see a gradual increase the number of autonomous trucks until the entire fleet of 27 units goes autonomous by 2025.

In this regard, Pablo Carvallo, General Manager of Lomas Bayas, highlighted: “We take pride in the launch of the autonomous trucks, a proposal included in a path of technological implementations that are also related to the way we communicate and reconfigure the working culture.” He added: “We are promoting mining innovation at Lomas Bayas. Although we cannot compete in ore grade, we can compete in the way we do things, both efficiently and under the wing of technology. Therefore, we think that we are driving things from the bottom upwards to become much more agile in technology testing, and this implementation is proof of that. It has taken us half the time it took the rest of the industry and that is not by chance. That is the fruits of clear goals, very effective team connection and a way of working that we hope will differentiate us.”

Abraham Chahuán, Copper Assets Director – South America, said: “Our first autonomous trucks in the region are already operating, and this marks the completion of the first stage of this autonomy project, which we have decided as a Copper Department and Corporation, to then apply it at all the Glencore assets, so that we can all share the benefit of what we are currently testing here.”

“Together with this launch, we are implementing other projects such as autonomous drilling, which is being carried out here at Lomas Bayas and at other operations, and the idea is to continue to use our infrastructure and operation at Lomas Bayas as a laboratory, so that it results in a technological improvement that Glencore can leverage worldwide,” he added.

For Enrique Caballero, Regional Technology Transformation Manager at Glencore: “We are a school of learning and technology development that positions us as exporters of technologies, methods and models from the driest desert in the world to many other places on the planet. The purpose is to help deploy future projects safely and efficiently at other Glencore sites worldwide, becoming leaders and an example of sustainable mining.”

Caballero also highlighted teamwork as a key pillar to achieve this and the next goals set by Lomas Bayas: “We must not forget that everything is part of a perfectly functional and operational mechanism, of which each of us are fundamental pieces for the development of initiatives that position us as leaders in mining. Today we are carrying out drilling and truck autonomy systems, anti-collision systems, in addition to mining electrification, all under cutting-edge technology and at the forefront of the needs of modern mining.”

These initiatives constitute a robust and ambitious business plan that looks forward to the future and is in line with the evolution of the industry. This is another great leap forward for the Lomas Lab innovation program that is now working on a study for developing power supply via trolley assist, which has to potential to turn Lomas Bayas into the first mining company in the world to operate autonomous trucks under trolley.

The company says this new step taken by Lomas Bayas with the help of Lomas Lab is an opportunity to look at the future from an integrative perspective, meeting the needs of new generations, to generate, execute and demonstrate excellence in processes and to be compatible with a better quality of life for people in mining.