Tag Archives: Caterpillar

Boliden’s trolley journey continues to evolve with Kevitsa line launch

In its latest move to become the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world, Boliden has opened the trolley line at its Kevitsa mine in Finland.

The line, which encompasses a 1.3-km-long track, now has three Komatsu 227 t 830E-5 trucks running on it, according to Stefan Romedahl, President Business Area Mines, Boliden. “The following 10 trucks will be converted in the spring of 2023 when the in-pit trolley line will be commissioned,” he told IM.

This project aims to cut the mine’s carbon dioxide emissions, with estimates the volume of CO2 emitted could reduce by 9% over mine’s lifetime using this electrical infrastructure.

Boliden is not new to trolley operations. It started testing trucks on the Kevitsa line late last year, while its Aitik copper mine in northern Sweden ran electric-drive trucks on trolley as far back as 2018.

Following a two-year trolley assist pilot project on a 700-m-long line at Aitik – which saw Eitech and ABB supply electrical infrastructure; Pon Equipment and Caterpillar carry out truck modifications; and Chalmers University provide supporting research on system aspects of the electrification – the company, in late-2019, decided to further invest in trolley operations at Aitik. This was announced at the same time as the Kevitsa trolley plans.

Romedahl confirmed there are now 14 Caterpillar 313 t 795F ACs trucks running on a 1.7-km-long trolley line at Aitik, which will be extended as the depth of the mine increases.

Stefan Romedahl, President Business Area Mines, Boliden

While all the trucks at these two operations use diesel-powered propulsion after they come off the trolley infrastructure, Romedahl said the plan was to convert them to ‘zero emission’ solutions in the future, with a battery-trolley setup under consideration.

“Yes, this is the long-term strategy,” he said. “Boliden is working closely with our suppliers to achieve this in the upcoming years.”

With the world requiring many more mines to electrify industry, Romedahl was hopeful more of these would move towards fossil-free operation.

“At Boliden we have the vision to be the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world,” he said. “That is not something you can have as a vision without doing quite a lot in the field of sustainable company development. The trolley lines are one of many activities we do to reach that vision.

“For Boliden, it is crucial to perform in the direction of fossil freeness as soon as possible. The green transition can’t happen in 10 years; it needs to happen now.”

Milestone Cat 24 Motor Grader set for Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations

Twenty-seven years after introducing the Cat® 24 Motor Grader to the mining market, Caterpillar has celebrated the production of its 1,000th unit.

At a ceremony held on September 22, 2022, Caterpillar executives and motor grader production team members gathered in Decatur, Illinois, to celebrate the production and sale of this milestone machine. The grader, destined for Australia, was sold by Cat dealer, WesTrac Pty Ltd, to Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Operations in Western Australia.

During the event, Caterpillar team members heard from both WesTrac and Rio Tinto Iron Ore representatives, through videotaped comments. The milestone machine includes a special 1,000th unit commemorative plate.

In 1995, Caterpillar introduced the Cat 24 Motor Grader specifically designed to build and maintain haul roads at mining sites with ultra-class haul trucks. Now in its third generation, the Cat 24 offers 399-518 kW of power, weighs 61,950 kg, comes with a 7.3 m moldboard – with an 8.5 m moldboard option – and technology as standard to work wide haul roads efficiently, according to the OEM.

Sam Vedhakumar Manoharan, Caterpillar’s Vice President of Product Management, Earthmoving, said: “The Cat 24 Motor Grader was and continues to be a game changer for maintenance efficiency of the wide haul roads necessary for ultra-class trucks. We thank the many global mining operations and dedicated Cat dealers around the world for their loyalty to the Cat 24 grader.”

Today’s Cat 24 Motor Grader features more than 30% higher power, 13% more weight and a longer rebuild life than previous generations. It will also soon feature a high-performance circle design for further improved reliability.

Stephen Jones, Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director of Planning, Integration and Assets, said: “For years, we have used Cat 24 Motor Graders to maintain our haul roads for our ultra-class trucks. The Cat 24 series offers a great combination of power, weight and blade width to support road maintenance coverage for our large mining fleet. We are honoured to receive the commemorative 1,000th 24 Motor Grader, and this represents the third generation we’ve used across our Pilbara mining operations.”

WesTrac receives funding boost for autonomous technology training centre

Leading Caterpillar® dealer WesTrac has welcomed a A$1 million ($678,616) State Government investment to expand the range of training services offered at its automation-focused WesTrac Technology Training Centre in Collie, in Western Australia’s South West.

The funding, announced on September 5 under the McGowan Government’s Collie Futures Industry Development Fund, will help WesTrac to build new training facilities and offer a broader range of courses at the training centre, which is one of only two in the world and the only such training centre outside the US.

The centre opened back in August 2020, with the State Government contributed A$2.7 million through the Collie Futures Fund towards the project.

WesTrac CEO, Jarvas Croome (pictured speaking in the centre), said one of the key focuses of the expanded offering would be providing apprenticeship pathways, and other resources and construction industry skills development opportunities, to local students.

“Since launching in 2020, the WesTrac Technology Training Centre has delivered autonomous operations training courses to more than 450 people,” Croome said.

“To date, that has predominantly involved people working in the resources industry and needing to upskill, however we have also run a pilot program in partnership with the not-for-profit Motivation Foundation, which supports young people to earn qualifications and secure full-time employment.”

The Motivation Foundation aims to educate and develop life and employability skills for school students enrolled in Year 11, 12 or equivalents from diverse backgrounds.

Croome said the expansion of the WesTrac Technology Training Centre would provide enhanced facilities and training opportunities to allow the partnership to expand and continue into the future.

Announcing the funding in Collie, WA Premier, Mark McGowan, said it continued to assist Collie to build on its rich history as an industrial hub, while setting up the town for the long-term by diversifying the economy and creating jobs.

“The WesTrac Technology Training Centre is part of Collie’s future, putting the south west town on the map as a national centre of excellence for autonomous equipment training – with ongoing benefits to Western Australia industry and the community,” he said.

Among the new facilities, WesTrac plans to establish virtual reality training, along with theory rooms, reception, administration and a multipurpose room. New plant and machinery will be purchased and communications infrastructure will be enhanced.

Croome said while training was not a massive revenue generator for WesTrac, it was an important part of building a long-term, sustainable future for mining and construction industries in Western Australia.

“As a key global centre for mining, it makes sense to continue growing our training capability in WA,” he said. “We are not only providing opportunities for people in the South West and around the state, but, now with COVID-related travel restrictions lifting, we’re starting to welcome trainees from interstate and overseas.

“The benefits for Collie and the wider region are immense. As well as directly employing eight people on site responsible for delivering training to up to 30 students per day, the centre utilises local service providers as much as possible including for accommodation, cleaning, catering, fuel and office supplies.

“More importantly, with hundreds of trainees coming to Collie for multi-day courses each year, there’s a considerable cash injection into the local economy.”

Thiess, WesTrac and Cat collaborate on ‘world-first’ autonomous drilling feat

In what WesTrac says is a world-first for autonomous drilling, mining services provider Thiess has successfully rolled out a system that involves three Cat® drill rigs being remotely operated by a single operator.

The solution is part of an ongoing program, also involving original equipment manufacturer Caterpillar® and specialist Cat equipment and service provider WesTrac, to ultimately achieve full autonomy. The current solution involves a single operator, working from a remote on-site operating centre, issuing commands to the three drill rigs simultaneously to instruct them to commence single-row autonomous drilling.

Apart from the operator instructing the rigs to move to the next row and commence drilling according to the pre-defined pattern, all operations are carried out using Cat autonomous technology. Ultimately, the program will see drill rigs completing entire drill patterns across multiple rows in fully autonomous mode.

Since the program went live earlier this year at a project in New South Wales, Australia, Thiess has reported a 20% improvement in drilling performance, including increased rig utilisation with operating times above 20 hours per drill per day, according to WesTrac. Accuracy has also improved with no re-drilling required since the solution was rolled out.

According to WesTrac Project Manager, Joanne Henry, the project involved an iterative rollout and collaborative approach between Thiess, WesTrac and Caterpillar that included phased development and implementation of various new technologies.

“As the OEM, Caterpillar, developed the drills and the technology layer to a certain point, but, as a development partner, Thiess drove a lot of the requirements for ongoing improvements and there’s been constant collaboration throughout the project,” Henry said.

The phased approach allowed Thiess to progressively upskill workers, verify the technology in stages and move smoothly towards the desired final outcome, WesTrac says.

Starting with a single drill rig and staged implementation of technology, Thiess progressed from manual operation to Operator Mission Assist (OMA) functionality that still involved an operator being stationed in the cab but introduced a range of automated functions. This allowed operators to build their understanding of new functions before the next stage – removing them from the cab and locating them in the remote operating station – was implemented.

Following successful evaluation of the single rig operating in autonomous mode, a second rig – albeit a different size to the first – was fitted with the same autonomous operating technology and Thiess operators were able to simultaneously control both rigs. A third rig was fitted out with the technology earlier this year, enabling Thiess to have three rigs working in unison. This has seen one multi-pass MD6250 rig and two single-pass MD6310s operated simulataneously from a single remote operator station.

According to Thiess, there were multiple benefits in relocating operators from the cab to the remote station. The obvious one was reduced risk by taking those operators “out of the line of fire”, however improved fatigue management also occurred as operators were freer to take short breaks and move around without impacting drill operations.

“Thiess also realised a higher level of engagement because team members had the opportunity to upskill,” Henry said.

“That has the potential not only to drive retention of existing staff, but to attract younger generations who see the appeal of working with world-leading technology.”

Another beneficial outcome derived from the collaborative approach was the development of new strata visualisation software that allows operators to see a 3D view of each hole profile they have drilled.

“That’s another piece of technology that in itself could revolutionise the way drilling operations are carried out,” Henry said.

“But, more importantly, it is a powerful addition to the overall solution that’s enabling Thiess to realise significant people, technology and process benefits.”

Thiess Head of Asset Management & Autonomy, Matt Petty, said: “We’ve been on our autonomous drilling journey since 2019, when we mobilised our first Caterpillar MD-series drill, equipped with OMA technology, moving through to ‘single-row’, with the goal of full pattern, multi-pass autonomous drilling using multiple drills at a time with one controller.

“Our close collaboration and a controlled, phased rollout of the technology with operational insight has meant piloting, implementation and refinement of the technology has been safe, efficient and successful.

“We’re now looking to expand our application of autonomous drill technology, ultimately graduating to off-site remote operating centres, from which controllers can operate multiple drills across multiple projects.”

PAUS to showcase new scaler, concrete mixer and dump truck at Bauma

After already showcasing its battery-electric vehicle and corresponding electric driveline concept at Bauma 2019, PAUS is intending to bring even more new developments to the 2022 edition later this year.

The machines to be showcased at Bauma 2022, from October 24-30 in Munich, Germany, include the PAUS Scaler PScale 8-T (pictured), the PAUS concrete mixer UNI 50-5 BM-TM and the PAUS dump truck PMKM 8030.

In addition to the brand new designs and individual characteristics of the displayed machines, all of them will be featured with the latest technologies as part of PAUS’ general and forward-looking product developments.

Safety, performance, sensitivity and high durability are the design principles and values PAUS used for the development of its new PAUS Scaler PScale 8-T generation in order to provide what it says is a “unique scaling experience”.

“In underground operations rock falls could potentially lead to fatalities, injuries and damage to underground personnel and infrastructure,” the company said. “To prevent from and to ensure a higher safety working environment, any loose rock needs to be removed before the follow-up processes can be started.”

The highest performance possible is ensured thanks to the use of a high power output engine, 20° tiltable cabin, individual parameter adjustment of the hydraulic hammer, operation and diagnostic display, which provide higher reliability and quality of the scaling process.

The PScale series allows operators to adjust and check hammer parameters directly at the face instead of adjustments on the surface, while the operator’s cabin outperforms international ROPS/FOPS requirements. Other risks can be further alleviated by using additional configurations, such as plug-and-play for the remote control, 3P safety belts, a brake test button, hill start assistance and a pressurised cabin.

For working heights up to 10 m, Paus additionally offers the PScale 10-T.

The PAUS concrete mixer UNI 50 BM-TM offers a transport solution with a higher payload as well as safe and comfortable driving characteristics, even on rough terrain, PAUS says.

The larger UNI 50-5 carrier, which highlights the new chassis of the UNI series, comes with a payload of up to 17 t, increased ground clearance, a more powerful driveline and a spring-mounted fully suspended front axle, according to the company.

With an available volume of up to 7.5 cu.m, the PAUS transport mixer is a reliable partner for successful concrete works in underground mining, it says.

The UNI 50-5 carrier can also be provided with further superstructure such as the fuel tanks, lubricant service, water tanker, fire tanker, loading platform with crane and many more. Further to that, PAUS is offering a variety of customised configurations and options to meet the individual requirements of the different underground operations and conditions. The carrier can also be equipped with different types of changeable systems for carrying cassette mounted superstructures.

PAUS delivers the UNI 50-5 BM-TM with an engine power of up to 173 kW with Deutz or Mercedes Benz engines. The machine can also be fitted with optional Stage V compliant engines.

The PAUS dump truck PMKM 8030, meanwhile, is designed for narrow-vein operations, with a compact yet powerful configuration.

The combination of the improved design and characteristics with the latest electronics and a preliminary setup for smart equipment will provide a future-oriented solution in terms of operator comfort and safety, but also efficiency, productivity and operating cost for haulage in narrow-vein mines.

The well-established sister machine, PMKM 8010, is designed with less width at increased length and height, but the new PMKM 8030 comes with a broader, shorter and narrow design at a reduced loading height and with improved driving characteristics thanks to the lowered centre of gravity, larger tyres and new axles with integrated oscillation, PAUS says.

With a payload of 16,000 kg, the machine is fitted as standard with a 8 cu.m dump box and can be further customised for transport of bulk materials with higher or lower densities.

The machine is also available with smart systems like a bird’s eye view camera, tyre pressure control and load weighing, all of which can be wireless monitored and displayed via PAUS CONNECT.

The PMKM 8030 comes with a rotating driver’s seat for long distances of driving backward at high speeds (bidirectional) and a spacious and comfortable cab.

It also comes with a choice of different Cummins and Caterpillar diesel engines complying with varying regulations and power of up to 190 kW.

The machine also includes the PAUS standard safety package for underground mining machines eg SAHR brakes, a ROPS/FOPS cabin, enhanced LED lighting, etc.

PAUS concluded: “The multifaceted portfolio, the variety of options and the customised features available along with our machines will provide the basis for almost every task – it doesn’t matter how individual the solution needs to be.”

PAUS says it is already working on new solutions like a special mine rescue vehicle – currently being developed in cooperation with Dräger and a major European supplier for firefighting equipment. In addition to that the “Scale Sense” project of the Germany-based RWTH Aachen University – for the detection of loose rock to use with PAUS scalers – is close to reaching the next development stage for extended field testing.

WesTrac holds Cat D10T2 dozer handover ceremony with a difference

An equipment handover ceremony of a Cat® D10T2 dozer at WesTrac’s South Guildford facility, in Western Australia, this week held special meaning for the stakeholders involved, the Cat dealer says.

Indigenous contracting business Civil Road & Rail SX5, part of the broader SX5 Group of companies, will use the new dozer for mine rehabilitation services at Rio Tinto’s mine sites in the Pilbara.

According to SX5 Directors, Ralph Keller and Cherie Keller, and Co-Director and Eastern Guruma Senior Elder, Kenzie Smith, the act of rehabilitating the land has grown in significance over recent years.

“We’re making things green again, making Country feel better,” Ralph Keller said. “In repairing Country, we’re helping repair the trust and relationships with the region’s Traditional Owners.”

As well as being among the Traditional Owners of the land, Smith’s family have a long history of helping modern enterprises use and rehabilitate the land. The family once helped break horses and muster cattle on the stations in the region and was permitted to gather any stock left behind to sell themselves. SX5 was the brand applied to those stray cattle before they were taken to market. That set the family on an entrepreneurial path that resulted in Smith helping to establish and run SX5’s contracting business, according to WesTrac.

WesTrac General Manager, Cameron Callaway, said miners, as well as their suppliers and service providers, understand the vital importance of engaging with the Traditional Owners on whose country they operate to ensure continual improvement in environmental, social and governance outcomes.

“The world needs miners to supply the mineral resources required for a more sustainable future, and that means we need to support sustainable mining initiatives,” Callaway said. “Drawing on the knowledge of Traditional Owners and the expertise of knowledgeable, experienced Indigenous organisations such as SX5 is a key aspect of that, and it’s especially rewarding for WesTrac to be involved in projects such as this.”

The Cat D10T2, itself, comes with onboard technologies to drive greater efficiency, productivity and fuel economy, as well as improved operator safety and comfort. It is also equipped with the building blocks to enable remote and semi-autonomous operations.

Ralph Keller says technology has been key to SX5’s success, and support from Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) has made it possible for the group to continue to purchase equipment with the latest machine control technologies.

“What makes us different is that SX5 continues to reinvent itself every day,” he said. “It’s all about technology. That’s how you achieve excellence and how you mitigate risk.”

IBA, a commercially-focused Federal Government organisation, supports First Nations businesses with cashflow and performance bond guarantees to enable business growth.

Kirsty Moore, IBA’s Chief Executive Officer, says: “Putting the regeneration of Country back in the hands of First Nations companies like SX5 is smart business and we’re so glad to support their efforts.

“IBA provides leasing opportunities to First Nations businesses so they can acquire critical capital equipment without tying up large amounts of cash that is needed to cover the operating costs of the business. The new equipment has stepped up the production and quality of work that the business has been able to achieve by using equipment that is purpose-built for the task.

“SX5 is a great example of a First Nations business transforming its opportunities to work with big business – all while restoring Country and being trained in new technology.”

Martin Roedhammer, Rio Tinto Manager Rehabilitation and Closure, said: “We work hard to leave a lasting, positive legacy everywhere we work. As part of this, we strive to generate opportunities for businesses to be part of our supply chain and deliver local economic benefits.

“Rio Tinto has worked with SX5 for more than seven years to support and develop the group’s capacity and understanding of our requirements and facilitate introductions across our Pilbara operations.

“A credit to SX5 is the business’ ability to think of ways to increase efficiency and get the best quality outcomes, trialling the use of chains to improve final surface finishes and modifying equipment to achieve improved vegetation establishment.

“We look forward to a continued successful relationship with SX5 and witnessing them grow even more in the future.”

WesTrac to bring R2900 XE and Cat AD63 LHD-truck combo to Diggers & Dealers

Leading Caterpillar dealer WesTrac is to unveil one of the latest Cat® underground mining trucks to hit Australian shores at this year’s Digger & Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, next week.

The Cat AD63 Underground Mining Truck was recently released by Caterpillar to the market and has undergone a series of upgrades to improve on the design and performance of its predecessor, the Cat AD60.

The AD63 has been designed and built for the most rugged mining applications while delivering exceptional performance, according to WesTrac. Improvements to payload, powertrain performance and serviceability have also been made.

This includes five optional dump body sizes including a new lightweight option, 63-t payload, a tilt cab to provide ease of servicing access, and eHVAC ducted air-conditioning for operator comfort. The AD63 is powered by the Cat C27 engine, which meets EU Stage V emissions standards.

The AD63 is well matched with a variety of loaders and is a good pairing with the new Cat R2900 XE underground loader, which, with an 18.5-t-payload, can fill the AD63 in three to four passes. The R2900 XE, displayed at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, in September 2021, will also be on show in Kalgoorlie.

The R2900 XE itself is designed with the latest diesel-electric technology, offering up to 30% greater fuel efficiency as well as increased payload and breakout force.

WesTrac CEO, Jarvas Croome, said: “Diggers & Dealers is an iconic event on the mining calendar and even with border closures last year, it attracted the second highest audience ever.

“It’s proof that these sorts of events are still high on many people’s priority lists and with borders open again, we should see a more diverse audience this year – and potentially see attendance records broken.

“That makes it even more exciting to be showcasing the Cat AD63 and R2900 XE at Diggers & Dealers.”

Diggers & Dealers is set to run from August 1-3 at the Goldfields Arts Centre in Kalgoorlie.

Ritchie Bros to auction EMECO’s excess mining equipment

Ritchie Bros. has entered into an agreement to deliver excess mining equipment dispersal services to EMECO, collaborating with the mining services supplier to deliver what it says is competitive integrated sales and marketing solutions for the sale of heavy earthmoving equipment.

EMECO is one of Australia’s largest, independent mining equipment rental businesses, providing tailored earthmoving equipment solutions for mining companies – with operations in key mining regions of Australia.

With this joint agreement, EMECO has received a dedicated storefront on Ritchie Bros. IronPlanet, a custom branded seller page that includes EMECO listings for sale. Assets will either be sold via both Marketplace-E and IronPlanet auctions with the approach tailored to deliver the optimal result, Ritchie Bros. says.

Ritchie Bros. Sales Director, Finlay Massey, said: “We are pleased to be working in collaboration with EMECO to deliver innovative solutions to the dispersal of excess assets. With a shared focus on asset solutions, this agreement is the foundation for a strong partnership and complements our efforts to diversify our sales solutions.

“We are uniquely positioned to deliver EMECO with our substantial resources, industry expertise and extensive buyer database to maximise the return on sale of surplus EMECO assets.”

EMECO Steve Crofts, GM HME Disposals, said: “We have been in the mining business for 50 years providing heavy earthmoving equipment to mining companies and contractors across coal, gold, copper, bauxite and iron ore. We are pleased to start selling surplus assets through Ritchie Bros. to the global mining industry.

“Ritchie Bros.’ multichannel sales approach will allow us to sell equipment when, how, and where, we choose.”

EMECO carries out a comprehensive scope of work from its component and rebuilding company, Force Equipment, to its line boring company, Borex, and underground mining services company, Pit N Portal.

EMECO says its operations are supported by close to 1,300 employees equipped with proprietary asset management and fleet optimisation technology and more than 1,000 units of heavy equipment in various quality brands such as Caterpillar, Hitachi, Liebherr and Komatsu.

WH Auctioneers and Ritchie Bros to hold Majwe Mining JV equipment auction

In conjunction with WH Auctioneers, Ritchie Bros is supporting a mining equipment auction in Jwaneng, Botswana, this week, with assets coming from the end-of-mine contract of the Majwe Mining Joint Venture.

The Botswana Mining Machinery Live Auction will be held on July 8.

“The two companies bring unrivalled expertise and experience in their respective fields,” Finlay Massey, Sales Director APAC, Ritchie Bros, said. “This is a live auction in Botswana with online bidding, hosted by WH Auctioneers with the support of Ritchie Bros. expertise, marketing efforts and our global database of buyers, which is second-to-none.”

On offer are Caterpillar 777D 85,000-litre water trucks, Caterpillar 834H and 854K wheel dozers, Caterpillar D10T tracked dozers, Caterpillar 16M motor graders, a Caterpillar 336DL tracked excavator, Terex TA100 and TA60 rigid dump trucks, Hyster 25 tyre handler, a Komatsu D375-5 tracked dozer, a Caterpillar 966 wheel loader, a Komatsu WA600 loader, Bell B20 articulated dump trucks, Manitou MHT780 and MRT2540 telehandlers, Atlas Copco drill rigs, crushers and screens, Lincoln Electric Vantage 500 welder/generators, and trucks and light delivery vehicles.

The auction will be conducted live on-site in Jwaneng, Botswana, on July 8 at 10:30AM SAST with webcast bidding available for overseas buyers. Those interested in bidding are urged to register to bid before the auction.

Back in 2019, the Majwe Mining Joint Venture was awarded a A$1.7 billion contract at Debswana Diamond Co’s Jwaneng Mine Cut-9 project in Botswana.

Majwe, a JV between Thiess (70%) and long-term local partner Bothakga Burrow Botswana (30%), was to provide full scope mining services over nine years, including drill and on-bench services, mine planning, equipment maintenance, load and haul, and mining operations.

In 2021, the contract was terminated by Debswana, with the Cut 9 operation transitioning to an owner-mining operation.

Rio Tinto details technology leaps at Gudai-Darri upon official opening

A week after delivering first ore, Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine, in Western Australia, has officially been opened, marking a major milestone for the company’s most technologically advanced mine.

Pilbara Traditional Owners, the Banjima People, and Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Energy, Bill Johnston MLA, today joined Rio Tinto employees as well as valued partners and suppliers to celebrate the official opening.

Since development commenced in April 2019, more than 14 million workhours have culminated in the delivery of Rio Tinto’s 17th and most technologically advanced iron ore mine in the Pilbara. Development of the mine supported more than 3,000 jobs during the construction and design phase with the operation requiring around 600 permanent roles.

With an expected life of more than 40 years and an annual capacity of 43 Mt, Gudai-Darri will underpin future production of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Blend™ product. It’s expected to increase iron ore production volumes and improve product mix from the Pilbara from the second half of this year, the company says. The mine is expected to reach capacity in 2023.

To optimise mine safety and drive productivity, Gudai-Darri features an unprecedented deployment of technology, much of it industry-leading. This includes the use of robotics for the ore sampling laboratory as well as for distribution of parts in the new workshop.

This goes from autonomous trucks, trains and drills, standard across many Rio Tinto mines in the Pilbara, to a full digital replica of the processing plant which allows teams to monitor and respond to data collected from the plant. The same digital asset data is used to provide a feature rich, interactive 3D environment for virtual reality training. These autonomous assets are monitored remotely from Rio Tinto’s Operations Centre 1,500 km away in Perth.

The technology spread includes 23 Caterpillar 793F autonomous haul trucks and three Caterpillar MD6310 autonomous drills. The trucks, in this case, implement real-time ore tracking using sensors to provide live dig face progression, while data-informed modelling from the drills helps to build more accurate assessments of existing ground conditions and improve safety. In collaboration with Caterpillar, Rio Tinto is advancing the development of zero-emissions autonomous haul trucks. Once development is complete, it is anticipated the world’s first operational deployment of Caterpillar 793 zero-emissions autonomous haul trucks will be at Gudai-Darri.

Gudai-Darri also hosts the world’s first autonomous water carts.

The new vehicles, developed in partnership with Caterpillar, are primarily used for dust suppression on site, enhancing productivity by enabling mine operations to digitally track water consumption and reduce waste. The vehicle’s intelligent on-board system detects dry and dusty conditions on site, triggering the application of water to roads to keep them in good condition.

And, of course, it has autonomous trains under its AutoHaul™ system, which has been fully operational since June 2019.

The company has also invested in what it says is its first “rotable bucketwheel reclaimer”.

It explained: “Traditionally reclaimer maintenance requires a prolonged shutdown while several components are removed. This patented world first will enable the entire bucket wheel module to be changed out for maintenance, improving safety and efficiency.”

With the help of Scott Automation, the company has also introduced a robotic ore sampling lab on site, while its heavy mobile equipment warehouse is the home to four automatic guided vehicles.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said: “We’ve worked closely with both the Banjima and Yindjibarndi People through the planning and development stages of Gudai-Darri and we look forward to partnering with them into the future to ensure the project achieves significant social and economic benefits.

“Gudai-Darri represents a step-change in the deployment of automation and technology within our iron ore business and a fantastic demonstration of the talent, ingenuity and capability that exists in Western Australia, a region which is now known globally for its technical excellence and innovation. Gudai-Darri’s combination of data and analytics, machine learning and automation, will make this mine safer and more productive.

“Gudai-Darri is our first greenfield mine in the Pilbara in more than a decade and a multi-billion-dollar investment in the State of Western Australia that will operate for decades to come.”

Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Energy, Bill Johnston MLA, said: “I’m impressed by Rio Tinto’s innovation and sustainability; this is a prototype of the mine of the future. Once the new solar farm (a 34 MW farm consisting of about 83,000 panels) is complete it will be able to power one-third of Gudai-Darri’s operational needs with renewable energy.”

A total of A$3.2 billion ($2.2 billion) in goods and services were sourced within Western Australia during the construction phase of the Gudai-Darri Project with contracts valued at A$1.5 billion awarded directly to Western Australia-registered businesses such as NRW, Primero, DTMT Construction Company, Southern Cross Electrical Engineering and Monadelphous Engineering Associates.

This includes over A$100 million awarded directly to local Aboriginal businesses including White Springs, Lorrex Contracting, Hicks Civil & Mining, Brida, Karijini Development, Yurala Contracting Services, and Karlka FenceWright WA.