Having convinced iron ore miner Roy Hill to move ahead with plans to create the world’s largest autonomous mine, Epiroc and ASI – which the OEM owns 34% of – are ready to take on new equipment-agnostic automation opportunities, Helena Hedblom says.
Speaking after the company’s December quarter and 2022 results were released, Hedblom, President and CEO of Epiroc, said the company and ASI had progressed through three years of rigorous testing of the system, with the solution now entering the “scale” phase.
The Roy Hill project’s Production Verification phase was recently completed with 10 converted haul trucks fitted with vehicle automation kits and in cab clients using ASI Mining’s Mobius traffic management and on–board automation systems to navigate the mine’s virtual map, communicating with ancillary vehicles and the control room.
From March, the companies will start converting the mixed fleet of 96 conventional haul trucks to driverless operation, which is an increase from the 77 trucks originally set to be converted to running autonomously.
“There are certainly opportunities to deploy such solutions elsewhere,” Hedblom told IM. “If you look at how we started autonomous drilling with BHP, we took a step-by-step approach ahead of rolling that out to our customer base.
“We and ASI hope to be able to do that for this type of autonomous haulage solution too.”
Epiroc’s financial results highlighted another robust quarter where orders received increased 18% year-on-year to SEK13.7 billion ($1.3 billion), representing an organic decrease of 4% and organic growth of 3% when excluding Epiroc’s Russian business (which has now ceased). Revenues increased 25% to SEK13.9 billion, an organic increase of 8%, and operating profit increased 25% to SEK3.2 billion.
While this quarter saw fewer large orders than previous three-month periods, it did see the easing of supply challenges and good output levels, Epiroc said, adding that operating profit was at a record high.
The period also saw the company complete the acquisition of four companies – Remote Control Technologies (RCT), Wain-Roy, Radlink and Geoscan – continuing the acceleration of M&A activity Epiroc has become known for.
The purchase of RCT also offers another automation in-road, with the Australia-based company known as an OEM-agnostic automation specialist.
Listing off several of these acquisitions, Hedblom also highlighted the planned acquisition of CR, which has an offering covering surface and underground mining, and products including cast lips, teeth, and protective shrouds installed on mining buckets and loaders.
“CR and ground engaging tools represent a new niche for us,” she said.
When Epiroc announced the planned acquisition in December, it said the move was predicated on expanding its “first-rate offering” of essential consumables and digital solutions.
Hedblom, meanwhile, said the company would continue to evaluate further M&A opportunities as they appeared.
Outside of automation and digitalisation, Hedblom remained confident the company would hit its electrification goals in 2025 – goals that include offering a complete range of emission-free underground products.
“We actually had our first order for the underground tunnelling sector recently,” she said. “We are very well positioned to achieve these targets.”