Tag Archives: autonomous trucks

Cat to bring new D11 XE dozer, R1700 XE battery-electric LHD to MINExpo

Caterpillar is set to unveil the world’s largest, most powerful and efficient electric drive dozer with high drive at the upcoming MINExpo 2021 event in Las Vegas, USA, in September, in an exhibit themed around the concept, “together, we’re mining better”.

Caterpillar’s MINExpo 2021 experience, the company says, celebrates its partnership with mines and the ways it assists customers to mine more efficiently, effectively, safely and sustainably. The 5,124 sq.m exhibit will feature a broad range of product displays, new equipment introductions, previews of what the future holds and remote operating stations.

The exhibit will be grouped under three specific core areas: environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and sustainability; technology and automation; and equipment lifecycle management solutions.

The headline exhibits come September 13-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center will, no doubt, be the brand new Cat D11 XE dozer, the new Cat® R1700 XE battery-electric LHD (pictured, top), and new R2900 XE LHD diesel-electric drivetrain. The company also intends to display the recently released Cat 992K wheel loader, new Cat 777G water truck, Cat 794 AC electric drive truck and Cat MD6310 rotary blasthole drill.

“After waiting an extra year, the mining industry is ready to reconnect at MINExpo,” Caterpillar Resource Industries Group President, Denise Johnson, said. “We are excited to show our customers and the industry the advancements Caterpillar has made not only in equipment, technology and services but also in how we are helping customers mine more sustainably.

“While we are eager to exhibit in Las Vegas, we recognise that many of our dealers and customers will not be able to travel to the show. Therefore, we are also creating a digital Caterpillar experience at cat.com/mining, where we will place MINExpo specific content.”

Mining sustainably

Central to Caterpillar’s commitment to mining better together is helping customers meet their ESG goals and build sustainable mine sites of the future. Recognising one size does not fit all, Caterpillar has followed a strategic approach with a long-term vision of discovering, developing and delivering a broad portfolio of products, technologies, services and solutions, it said.

“This portfolio allows Caterpillar to provide a full site approach, which combines offerings with integration expertise to identify and provide the best possible solution for each specific mine,” Cat explained.

Vital to the vision of the all-electric underground mine of the future, the new Cat R1700 XE LHD will feature 100% battery-electric propulsion that generates significantly less heat and noise. It offers a 15t payload, 24,190 kg lift and tilt breakout force, and 18 km/h top speed. To optimise runtime and improve safety, batteries stay on the machine for charging, with the new portable Cat MEC500 Mobile Equipment Charger able to charge the unit in as little as 20 minutes.

The new R2900 XE LHD diesel-electric drivetrain to be displayed features a significant reduction in maintenance and repair costs, while minimising emissions. Its redesigned lift arm and components delivers up to a 39% improved lift breakout force over the R2900G, making this model up to 31 tonnes per litre more fuel efficient, Cat claims.

Cat is set to unveil what it says is the world’s largest, most powerful and efficient electric drive dozer with high drive. The new Cat D11 XE dozer will be the most advanced, lowest emission-per-tonne dozer in the industry, built to deliver the lowest cost of bank cubic meters ever.

Exhibited alongside the D11 XE, the new Cat D10 dozer (below) offers up to 4% less fuel consumption than the previous model, up to 3% more productivity with high-horsepower reverse and up to 6% more efficiency with combined load-sensing hydraulics and stator clutch torque divider, according to Cat.

The recently introduced Cat 992 wheel loader to go on show delivers up to a 32% increase in productivity. It reduces maintenance costs by up to 10% and has demonstrated in field testing up to 48% greater payload-per-fuel efficiency in applications where a four-pass match to 90.7 t trucks was achieved versus five passes with the 992K.

Caterpillar says it is committed to helping customers with their energy transitions, and the MINExpo exhibit will include a range of renewable and storable power displays, including the Cat Microgrid system. The Cat 3516 engine, meanwhile, will feature dynamic gas blending (DGB), which allows mines to save fuel and reduce emissions without sacrificing diesel performance.

Driving technology and automation

“Technology and automation are critical components for substantially improving machine uptime availability and productivity,” Marc Cameron, Vice President, Caterpillar Resource Industries, said. “Through Cat MineStar™ Solutions, Caterpillar offers customers scalable technologies to fit the mine’s specific needs. The exhibit’s technology and automation stage will focus on the real value that Caterpillar technology options provide customers.”

MINExpo will be the first opportunity for many attendees to learn more about the recently introduced Cat MineStar Edge. This solution brings visibility to the entire mining operation to show how activities early in the process impact those further down the value chain, according to the company. MineStar Edge makes it possible to measure, manage, analyse and improve the entire mining operation.

Equipped with MineStar Command for hauling, the new Cat 777G water truck provides a glimpse into the future for autonomously lowering dust levels at the mine site while maintaining haul road safety. Featuring the market’s first autonomous water delivery system, the machine integrates truck, tank and sprayer, and knows where and when to water haul roads.

Representing the Caterpillar fleet of autonomous trucks, the displayed Cat 794 AC electric drive (pictured below) will be factory-installed with Cat MineStar Command for hauling. Recently, autonomous trucks using Command for hauling surpassed 3 billion tonnes of material hauled, safely traveling more than 110 million km.

Accurate to the centimetre, the exhibited Cat MD6310 rotary blasthole drill offers technology, efficiency, safety and productivity improvements. Fully integrating Caterpillar’s components and systems, including technology and automation, the drill is capable of up to 42,149 kg of bit load and targets 203-to-311-mm hole diameters.

Exhibiting how technology can improve safety at the mine site, the Cat MineStar Detect Driver Safety System (DSS) display details how the system monitors eye closure and head pose to alert the driver via seat vibration and/or audio alarm the moment fatigue or distraction is identified. DSS has been shown to reduce 97% of the most significant fatigue events, 80% of average fatigue events and 91% of distraction events, Cat says.

Several Cat Command stations and trailers will be on display for attendees to experience effective remote control and semi-autonomous drilling, dozing and underground operations from many kilometres away.

Lifecycle solutions

Highlighting Caterpillar’s rebuild services capability, the rebuilt Cat C175-16 engine, which produces up to 2,550 kW, on display reduces overall owning and operating costs.

Team members will also be available to explain to attendees how MineStar Health maximises equipment availability and reliability by connecting the machine to the office. The service assists with proactive maintenance services and predictive equipment analysis by collecting equipment data, monitoring critical machine parameters, obtaining real-time alerts, analysing operational trends and patterns, predicting failures and receiving repair recommendations, Cat says.

Partnership and expertise

In addition to teams of workers with machine and technology expertise, representatives of Cat Financial and Cat Solutions will be on hand to share information on safety, fleet management and productivity offerings that can be combined into full site solutions.

A ThoroughTec® Simulation training will provide an opportunity to experience the 7495 electric rope shovel. In addition, attendees will be able to experience two next generation machine cabs – one for mining trucks and another for the 6060 hydraulic mining shovel – via actual cabs on display.

OZ Minerals, Loesche team up following West Musgrave vertical roller mill test work

OZ Minerals, following a successful prefeasibility study of vertical roller mills (VRM) at the West Musgrave project in Western Australia, has signed a “Partnering Agreement” with Loesche.

The agreement with the leading original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of VRMs will help the company as it moves to the next phase of the project, OZ Minerals said.

“By working in a collaborative, innovative and transparent way, we believe we will deliver superior outcomes for the project when compared to more traditional ways of engaging with suppliers,” OZ Minerals said.

In November 2017, OZ Minerals and Cassini, which owns 30% of West Musgrave, announced that the West Musgrave project would progress to a prefeasibility study. This prefeasibility study timeline was extended in 2019 to complete a detailed evaluation of additional value-add opportunities, the most significant of which was the use of a dry VRM to reduce power consumption.

The study, released earlier this year, showed off plans for a 26-year open-pit mine with “bottom quartile cash costs” and average production of circa-28,000 t/y of copper and circa-22,000 t/y of nickel in concentrates, OZ Minerals said.

It also included details of an “innovative mineral processing plant” that would be built on site.

The grinding circuit for West Musgrave was expected to consist of two stages of crushing followed by two parallel VRMs treating nominally 5 Mt/y each. The second stage of crushing and VRMs replaced a traditional SAG mill, ball mill and pebble crushing circuit.

OZ Minerals explained in the study: “Vertical roller mills are widely used in the grinding of cement plant feeds and products, slag, coal and other industrial minerals, with thousands currently in operation worldwide. The mill has benefits in reducing power consumption by circa-15%, no ball charge grinding media, higher flotation recovery and can be ramped up and down in response to the availability of low-cost renewable energy.”

The VRM uses compression-style comminution principles taking 75 mm rock to flotation feed size in the one machine, according to OZ, adding that the application of the VRM had reduced processing costs and provided a circa-2% improvement in nickel recovery compared with a previous scoping study.

“The technology has been peer reviewed for West Musgrave by an independent expert and has been substantially de-risked through a series of pilot tests whereby 5 t of West Musgrave ore has been tested,” the company said.

Reviewing the prefeasibility study, OZ Minerals Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cole, said: “We have been able to achieve a further significant reduction in carbon emissions and power demand through the adoption of vertical roller mills as the grinding mill solution and a flotation flowsheet which achieves metal recovery at a much coarser grind size than was previously considered in the design.

“This lower power usage has resulted in a reduction in operating costs, while the use of dry grinding from the vertical roller mills has also resulted in an improvement in nickel recovery.”

Another innovation the company plan to use at West Musgrave include the use of hybrid renewables that could include a combination of wind and solar energy, battery back-up, and diesel or gas.

Mining at West Musgrave is modelled to be conventional drill, blast, load and haul and is assumed to be contractor operated during the first five years of operation, transitioning to owner operate in year six.

The haulage fleet will comprise up to 25 220 t haul trucks and optionality is being maintained to allow for these trucks to be fully autonomous in the future, OZ Minerals said.

NGEx weighs up autonomous haul trucks for Josemaría copper-gold-silver project

One of the few “construction-ready” copper-gold-silver projects yet to be funded has contemplated the use of autonomous haul trucks in its latest economic study.

The prefeasibility study for the Josemaría project in San Juan province, Argentina, showed ore would be mined using conventional open-pit methods and assumed the latest in autonomous haul truck technologies.

The PFS outlines the development of a 150,000 t/d milling operation able to produce 125,000 t/y of copper, 230,000 oz/y of gold and 790,000 oz/y of silver at a C1 cost of $1.26/Ib ($2,778/t) of copper-equivalent over a 20-year mine life.

The initial capital cost came in at $2.75 billion, with the post-tax net present value (8% discount) slightly below at $2 billion. All of these calculations used an average $3/Ib copper price.

The PFS was prepared and managed by SRK Consulting with input from Ausenco Engineering Canada, Knight Piésold, BGC Engineering, Merlin Geosciences and Gino Zandonai.

NGEx said the plan for Josemaria saw ore trucked from the open pit to a primary crusher, which crushed the material before it was sent to the process plant. The 150,000 t/d comminution circuit design considers high-pressure grind roll crushing followed by ball mill grinding. Conventional sulphide flotation would follow the comminution stage and is expected to produce a gold and silver-rich copper concentrate.

“Groundwater for the process plant would be supplied from nearby aquifers to the plant site, and power would be supplied via 250 km of power line construction to connect to the Argentine national grid,” NGEx said.

Concentrates would be trucked from the plant to the port of Caldera in Chile, approximately 380 km by road from the Josemaría plant site, requiring the construction of 57 km of new road to connect to the public highway.

NGEx CEO,  said: “The PFS shows robust economics and confirms the great potential of Josemaría. Long-term copper fundamentals are strong, and the global project pipeline is at multi-decade lows. We believe that this scarcity will lead to premium valuations for companies with construction-ready projects.

“We plan to work towards fast-tracking Josemaría towards production by starting work on a feasibility study, securing water rights, and advancing our environmental permitting plans.”

Oxbotica raises funds to further autonomous vehicle ambitions

Oxford, UK-based autonomous vehicle software developer Oxbotica has raised £14 million ($18.4 million) to scale up its activities in Europe, Asia and the US, in sectors including mining.

Founded in 2014 on research from Oxford University’s Robotics Institute, Oxbotica’s software uses computer vision, machine learning and artificial intelligence to enable vehicles to operate autonomously in any environment and on any terrain, the company says.

Its control system, Selenium, allows vehicles to sense their surroundings without external infrastructure such as GPS, while Caesium, Oxbotica’s cloud-based fleet management system, can schedule and co-ordinate fleets of vehicles.

Oxbotica’s software has been deployed across multiple projects where the future application of autonomy is being trialled, such as with online grocery company Ocado, at Heathrow Airport (pictured) and on major city streets in the UK. A spokesman for the company confirmed the software is also being trialled with mining organisations.

Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica, said: “We are on a mission to bring autonomous software to the world’s biggest markets. We have already seen extraordinary demand from a range of sectors and markets, with the successful deployment of our technology across a strong customer base over the previous four years.

“This injection of funds comes as we move the business into its next growth phase, enabling us to deliver our ambitious plans to scale our capabilities and international presence.”

Oxbotica says its mission is to enable its customers to access, customise and integrate the world’s leading mobile autonomy IP into their own products.

BHP considering IPCC, autonomous trucks at Spence copper mine

BHP says it is continuing to evaluate materials handling and fleet replenishment options at its Spence copper mine, in Chile, with one possibility being the use of an in-pit crushing and conveying ore system in tandem with autonomous trucks.

In its 2018 annual report, the company said the timing and sequencing of these options was “pertinent” to reducing health and safety risks and operating costs, with “technology-enabled solutions potentially significantly reducing risks associated with crash, collision and rollover, silica exposure, dust and greenhouse gas emissions”.

Spence is a key part of BHP’s copper portfolio in Chile and is due to produce some 185,000-200,000 t of the red metal in the company’s 2019 financial year to end-June.

Australia coal mine automation could increase post-2025, says WoodMac

While autonomy has started to catch on in Western Australia’s iron ore sector, coal miners on the eastern side of the country have been slow to adopt such technologies. Research firm Wood Mackenzie thinks that could change with a number of new, large projects starting to come online after 2025.

The reasons East Coast coal miners have shied away from autonomous trucks, drills and trains now operating across the iron ore ranges of the Pilbara are mostly tied to mining complexity and high capital spend, according to WoodMac’s Brent Spalding.

Without labour reductions or output increases, autonomous retrofits produce minimal operating cost savings, he said.

But, that hasn’t stopped Whitehaven Coal from signing up to an Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) development at its Maules Creek operations in New South Wales.

Earlier this month, the company agreed to mobilise a fleet of six autonomous Hitachi EH5000AC3 haul trucks at one of the mine’s operating pits by 2019 as it looked to improve safety and efficiency. If proven successful, the technology could be rolled out across the mine.

The collaboration between the two companies will entail scoping the delivery and commissioning of phased AHS deployment for the fleet at Maules Creek and the establishment of the physical and technological infrastructure to support AHS capability.

But wider adoption among the Australia coal sector is some way off, Spalding said. This is despite numerous operating cost and safety benefits already seen in Western Australia iron ore operations.

“In iron ore, we have seen increased productivity levels of 15-20% mainly driven by higher output levels. Output levels have increased at autonomous mines because of improved equipment utilisation, less downtime due to fewer shift changes and breaks, and a drop in labour absenteeism,” he said.

“Safety has also proven to be a key driver of automation. To date, there have been no injuries attributed to autonomous vehicles within the Australian iron ore sector.”

Yet, these results require additional upfront capital not necessarily paid back with higher financial returns.

“For iron ore, we estimate no real change in net present value across automated and non-automated sites, because the operating cost savings are presently offset by the high capital spend,” he said.

Autonomous retrofits of haul trucks, which Fortescue Metal Group and Rio Tinto are in the process of carrying out, cost in the order of $500,000 per truck, according to Spalding.

He sees this capital outlay falling as access to autonomous technology improves and becomes more readily available, while added productivity improvements could lead to further cost savings.

Yet, at current costs, the return on investment in coal doesn’t make sense, according to Spalding’s numbers.

He applied the same 15-20% improvement in unit rates (excluding diesel) for truck haulage and the same increase in labour productivity seen in WA iron ore across Australia coal.

This analysis was based on an average surface coal mine operating at the mid-point of the Australia cost curve and assumed a surface coal mine with a strip ratio of 6.5 bank cubic metres per raw tonne, producing 10 million tonnes per year of raw coal with a productivity of 13,333 raw tonnes per employee.

“When adjusting at 15%, we estimate a decline in raw total cash costs of 10% (or $2.69 per tonne) to $25.44/t. At 20%, we estimate costs 12% lower at $24.66/t,” Spalding said, noting raw costs do not take into account processing yields.

“In this Australia coal scenario, the total labour component accounts for close to one-third of the total raw unit cost. However, for the 15% and 20% productivity improvement scenarios, we estimate the labour component will account for more than 60% of the total cost saving. So, it stresses that if labour is not reduced – or output increased – as part of the automation process, cost savings will be limited to approximately $1/t for both scenarios,” he said.

But, OEMs and autonomy specialists should not despair; a slate of new, large projects could be ripe for such solutions.

“Beyond 2025, there could be more opportunities for driverless trucks through the development of some larger projects in excess of 20 Mt/y, which include Glencore’s Wandoan coal project in the Surat basin and Adani’s Carmichael in the Galilee basin,” he said.

Wandoan is expected to produce 22 Mt/y of thermal coal at full tilt, while Carmichael is reported to have a 60 Mt/y capacity.

The reason these greenfield projects are more likely to adopt such technologies – aside from the obvious safety benefits – is because “they represent a clean slate, where the mine plan can be geared towards automation from the start, rather than be retrofitted or changed as the mine develops”, Spalding said.

“There could even be a further option for driverless trains given the rail infrastructure still needs to be developed for these Queensland coal basins.”