Hexagon AB has signed a major agreement with diversified mining company Mineral Resources (MinRes) to provide an autonomous haulage solution for a fleet of road trains to run at the Onslow iron ore project in Western Australia, which, the companies say, will transform safety, productivity and sustainability in the region.
The world-first, fully autonomous road trains are a full-site, truck-agnostic solution, leveraging positioning, onboard autonomy and by-wire, fleet management, collision avoidance, world perception and autonomous mission management solutions from Hexagon.
These solutions will be added to Kenworth 330 t road trains (coming with three trailers each), which will run autonomously on MinRes’ 150 km private haul road.
This agreement builds on two major milestones the companies achieved over the last two years in anticipation of rolling out the fully autonomous road trains at Onslow.
In late 2021, Hexagon and MinRes signed an agreement to develop an autonomous road train solution as part of a plan to unlock “stranded tonnes” in the Pilbara of Western Australia. Then, in April 2022, the companies announced a world-first had been achieved with the successful demonstration of a triple-trailer, automated road train platoon in the Yilgarn of Western Australia – each autonomous road train, in this case, hauling 300 t of iron ore.
Andrew Crose, Vice President, Autonomous Mining, Hexagon’s Mining division, told IM that the speed of adoption of this automated solution – from agreement to demonstration, to planned commercial deployment, in a little over two years – was aided by the abilities and efforts of a global team of Hexagon experts.
“Hexagon has staffed a large multi-national team across the Hexagon technologies stack across Perth (Australia), United States, Brazil, Switzerland and Canada to deliver this technology,” he said.
The companies also worked within the framework of the established Code of Practice for Safe Mobile Autonomous Mining in Western Australia to gain the necessary regulatory approvals to move the project forward at such a pace.
Mike Grey, Chief Executive, MinRes, said in the press release: “Automation will remove the risk of driver fatigue, lower operating costs and reduce fuel use and emissions. There’s enormous potential for these vehicles to transform mining across the world.”
Commissioning of the autonomous road trains is expected to fall in line with the go-live date for Onslow – currently estimated for the first half of 2024.
The road trains form an important part of the 35 Mt/y project, ensuring this tonnage is moved from the mine to the Port of Ashburton.
MinRes has said previously that the autonomous road train technology will initially be adopted for its own mining operations, with a view to offering the solution to its Tier 1 customer base as it grows its Mining Services division.
Hexagon recently expanded its autonomy offering with the acquisition of HARD-LINE; a deal that, Nick Hare, President, Hexagon’s Mining division, says allows the company to provide a scalable automation platform that all mining companies can use and grow with.