Tag Archives: haul trucks

Fortescue completes autonomous haul truck fleet conversion in Western Australia

Fortescue Metals Group says it has completed its Chichester Hub autonomous haulage project, with 183 trucks now operating in AHS mode across its Solomon and Chichester Hubs, in Western Australia.

The project represents one of the largest fleet conversions to autonomous haulage systems (AHS) in the industry. It was aided by the involvement of Thiess.

The multi-class fleet includes Cat 793F, 789D and Komatsu 930E haul trucks and has safely travelled more than 52 million km and moved 1,500 Mt of material since 2013, according to FMG. An additional 900 assets, such as excavators, wheel loaders and light vehicles, are integrated with the autonomous fleet using Cat MineStar Command for hauling technology, which is operated from the Fortescue Hive, the company’s integrated operations centre in Perth, Western Australia.

Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines said, “Mining is one of the most innovative industries in the world, and Fortescue continues to build on our leading autonomy capability to deliver productivity and efficiency benefits.

“Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology has improved safety outcomes across our operations and we’re very pleased that the team achieved this important milestone in the truck conversion program to the highest safety standards.

“Our approach to autonomy has been to be open and transparent with our plans and to work closely with our team members to offer opportunities for re-training and re-deployment. Around 3,000 Fortescue team members have been trained to work with autonomous haulage, including over 200 people trained as Mine Controllers and AHS system professionals.”

Group President, Resource Industries, Caterpillar Inc, Denise Johnson, said: “Fortescue is a leader in the implementation of autonomous solutions. This important milestone further reinforces the transformation Fortescue has made with autonomy to improve safety, site productivity and machine utilisation. We congratulate Fortescue on this significant achievement.”

Fortescue Chief Operating Officer, Greg Lilleyman, said: “Fortescue’s autonomous haulage fleet has delivered a 30% increase in productivity. Looking ahead, the flexibility of our efficient, multi-class autonomous fleet offers considerable potential for further productivity and efficiency gains.

“Our operations are more connected than ever before and, by using data from our autonomous haulage fleet, we can paint an accurate picture of our operations and focus on the optimal opportunities for improvement, such as haul road design and maintenance scheduling.

“Our autonomous haulage system is a foundational tool which allows us to streamline processes and improve outcomes, ultimately delivering increased value for our shareholders.”

Bis looking at hybrid, electric and automated Rexx haul truck variants, Peate says

Bis is already offering clients a “step change in flexibility and efficiency” with its Rexx haul truck, but Chief Development Officer, Todd Peate, says the company has plans to offer hybrid, electric and automated versions of the 160 t payload vehicle as it looks to offer customers a further boost in productivity and their environmental footprint.

Speaking in a blog post on Bis’ website, Peate said the launch of Rexx, a solution that can come out of pit and travel up to 30 km while reducing fuel consumption up to 40%, is a fantastic example of a lower cost approach to running mining fleets.

Rexx was launched in 2018, with Peate saying six customers have been running detailed trials of this solution during 2019 and 2020 as part of fleet replenishment and cost optimisation project assessments.

Among these are trials at Gold Fields’ Granny Smith mine and Glencore’s Murrin Murrin operation, both in Western Australia.

“Rexx speaks directly to improvements in environmental footprint and productivity for our customers,” he said, adding that, in Bis’ short- to medium-term roadmap, variants will be available in both hybrid and electric forms, with the existing solution capable to be retrofitted with automation capability.

“With the success of Rexx and feedback from the market, we have a roadmap for a product family that will see Rexx continue to grow well into the back end of this decade and beyond,” he said.

Meanwhile, in other areas, Bis is developing a “category disruptor” in the underground market in the early part of 2021, Peate said.

He concluded with the news: “From an automation point of view, we’ll be bringing something to the market very soon in the form of an offering that has potential application for not only our equipment, but for all equipment in the industry.

“Stay tuned!”

Caterpillar and the next generation of productive hauling

Caterpillar says it is leading the way in the next generation of productive hauling through game-changing efficiency advancements with the Next Generation of Cat® Mining Trucks.

The 785 large mining truck was Caterpillar’s first entry into the mining industry more than three decades ago and, the company says, has been a top performer on sites around the world ever since. It is fitting, therefore, that it is the first of a new generation.

Designed by operators, for operators

“Where does the next generation of productive haulage begin? It all starts with operators, who work in an environment designed for them by other operators,” Cat says.

Truck operators provided input, worked alongside Cat’s large mining truck design team and shared feedback to help create a state-of-the-art environment on board the 785 designed for efficiency and ergonomics, and equipped with features that increase comfort, automate functions and boost confidence, from the smallest operator to largest operator around the globe, the company said.

The next generation operator experience is safer, more consistent, more predictable and more intuitive, shortening the learning curve and boosting productivity of less experienced operators, according to the company.

The new speed coaching feature gives operators real-time feedback on how to operate the truck to maximise its productivity, Cat told IM. In field trials, the new AutoHoist controls, meanwhile, have shown reductions of up to 12 seconds in the dumping cycle. “This feature can also reduce fuel burn during this portion of the haul cycle,” the company said.

Features such as Hill Start Assist, Anti Roll Back, Enhanced Traction Control, Dynamic Stability Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Machine Speed Limiting and Cruise Control improve machine responsiveness and controllability, while improving cycle times and reducing operator fatigue, the company added.

Serviceability and reliability

In addition to enhancing the operator experience and efficiency, the next generation truck platform delivers significant improvements in serviceability and reliability, according to Cat.

“We’ve worked to reduce key contributors to downtime with features like the new modular HVAC (heating, ventilation and air condition) system, which improves reliability and consolidates components so the entire system can be removed and replaced quickly,” Cat said.

Field studies have shown this modular element alone can improve physical availability by up to 0.5%.

New “Remote Flash” and Remote Troubleshooting capabilities reduce downtime and maximise machine availability, according to Cat, providing the ability to troubleshoot the machine remotely or update the software of an electronic control module on an engine or machine through cellular service.

“A manager in the back office can securely push machine software updates over the air to the truck,” Cat explained. “This feature reduces machine downtime and technician time, allows updates to be performed when most convenient, and keeps the machine up to date with the most recent software.”

Connectivity and technology integration

Mine sites have access to real-time information and analytics that improve their total cost of ownership, the company claims, with these next gen pre-production machines “quantifying the full value of new features” at multiple customer sites right now ahead of the start of manufacturing in the March quarter of 2021, Cat says.

Cat says it will be easier to integrate Caterpillar and certain third-party current and future technology solutions on the next generation platform, with offerings such as Cat MineStar™ – which includes fully autonomous haulage with Command – able to deliver a step change in productivity, efficiency and safety.

This integration can provide valuable data and analytics to enable near real-time decision making, maintenance troubleshooting, and the ability to predict and proactively prevent failures, according to the company.

Included on the truck is an improved payload monitoring system that comes with more accurate measurements, improved monitoring and an improved interface, according to Cat.

“Information is more accurate and the system provides access to more data,” the company said of this system. “The new system also provides accurate dipper counts, reduces false loading triggers and overload detection, while carryback calculations are more accurate.”

The system also provides detailed haul cycle segmentation and remote access through telematics, Cat added.

The backbone of advanced connectivity on the Next Gen truck platform is the ability to communicate through dual mode cellular 4G/LTE and Satellite, or local Wi-Fi networks – “whatever benefits the mine plan”, Cat says.

“Next generation connectivity delivers faster data transfers, better access to data, consistent and reliable data communication, more insightful and actionable data, improved data analytics and new diagnostic capabilities,” the company explained.

“The NextGen telematics systems can collect and transmit information securely into locally-hosted or cloud-hosted applications, such as Cat MineStar Fleet, MineStar Edge, and Health Equipment Insights. These applications boost productivity and improve maintenance and machine life.”

Built on a solid foundation

With nominal rated payload of 138 t or higher with optional larger tyres, the 785 has delivered lowest cost per tonne in a wide range of mining applications ranging from flat hauls to deep pits, and solid roadways to challenging underfoot conditions, the company said.

Its 3512E engine offers selectable power options so miners can either match the speed of their current fleet or speed up their cycle times, according to the company. The optional Tier 4 engine has shown a reduction in fuel usage by as much as 9%, while advanced electronic transmission controls deliver faster cycle times, faster acceleration, less spillage and reduced haul road maintenance, on top of improved engine and powertrain life. Longer-life components, extended service intervals and easier maintenance contribute to higher mechanical availability.

“The individual features, components, software and systems that make up the Next Generation 785 have one very important thing in common: they are all manufactured by Caterpillar and supported by the Cat dealer network.

“This integration ensures that the entire truck, from tyres to transmissions, engines to electronics, can be fully optimised to deliver the lowest cost per tonne in any manned or autonomous site applications in the world.”

NQ Minerals acquires Beaconsfield mine, plots new underground decline

NQ Minerals has added the historic Beaconsfield gold mine, in Tasmania, Australia, to its growing portfolio, with the London-listed company saying it plans to recommission the processing plant and re-develop the underground mine with a new decline.

The company announced this week that it had signed all necessary agreements and made the necessary payments to purchase and take immediate possession of the Beaconsfield mine.

The mine has historic production of circa-1.8 Moz of gold averaging around 15 g/t to its name, and was closed in 2012 due to the low gold price at that time.

“The gold price has since increased by over 100% and the company plans to re-open the mine as soon as practicably possible,” NQ Minerals said.

The 350,000 t/y processing plant, which is currently under care and maintenance, will be recommissioned as part of this plan.

NQ Minerals strategy for re-opening the underground mine, meanwhile, involves developing new modern mine decline access into the existing Beaconsfield mine from surface to reconnect into the existing mine workings at the lower section of the orebody, which comprises all of the current stated gold resources, the company said.

“This new decline will be capable of running large modern mining equipment and men/materials/rock from surface to anywhere in the mine underground workings and will allow for the most efficient low-cost operations possible,” it said.

The main decline currently in the mine is a 5 m x 5 m access way (running down at an angle of 1 m for every 7 m in horizontal length, pictured) that starts 400 m from surface all the way to the bottom of the mine at 1,200 m from surface, according to a NQ Minerals spokesperson.

“The main shaft that accesses that decline is now out of use and is part of the Beaconsfield Heritage Museum,” the spokesperson clarified.

The plan is to run a new 6 m x 6 m decline from surface (popping out near the processing plant) and connect it to the old decline at 400 m depth at the bottom of the Hart Shaft, according to the spokesperson.

“This way, we can run very large diesel trucks (50 t capacity), large front-end loaders and big drill and blast equipment from surface to anywhere in the mine,” the spokesperson added.

Up until 2012, all the big mining equipment had to be dismantled and taken down the old shaft in pieces and re-assembled at the 400 m depth level before it could get used. This big equipment is still down the mine, according to the spokesperson.

“This old way of getting mining equipment down the mine was very slow and very expensive,” the spokesperson explained.

“The other good thing about a new access to surface is the mine can also have smaller-sized equipment easily moved around the mine for mining of the gold orebody, ie equipment suitably sized for the job it has to do,” the spokesperson said.

“The combination of the above is that this will enable economies of scale and economies of suitability.”

NQ, which is currently increasing production at its flagship Hellyer gold mine in Tasmania, Australia, announced a new JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate of the lower section of the Beaconsfield gold mine of 1.454 Mt grading 10.3 g/t for 483,000 oz of gold, earlier this year.

David Lenigas, NQ’s Chairman, said: “Beaconsfield is an exceptional high-grade gold asset and will provide a solid platform to bring the company’s second mine in Australia into production.

“The company is now focused on bringing the Beaconsfield gold processing plant back into operational status as soon as practicable. The mine has a long and rich history in northern Tasmania, and we understand the importance of this heritage. We are looking forward to bringing jobs and economic activity back to Beaconsfield.”

WesTrac’s Collie technology training centre to welcome new trainees next month

The WesTrac Technology Training Centre in Collie, Western Australia, is close to completion and due to accept its first trainees within weeks, the Cat dealer says.

The facility, which is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, will deliver training courses to technicians and operators of autonomous equipment such as haul trucks used in the mining industry, according to WesTrac.

Announced in January this year and partially funded through the Western Australia Government’s Collie Futures Fund, the site near Bluewaters power station includes dedicated training facilities and an extensive “calibration pad” used for trialling and fine-tuning autonomous equipment, it said.

Western Australia Premier, Mark McGowan, was onsite today (June 29, 2020) to inspect progress, along with Regional Development Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, Collie-Preston MLA, Mick Murray, and WesTrac CEO, Jarvas Croome.

McGowan said the training centre was one of a range of new initiatives designed to secure the future of the town.

“It’s great to be here in Collie to view first-hand the progress on this facility, which is going to put Collie on the map for training technicians and operators of autonomous equipment,” he said.

“The WesTrac Technology Training Centre will result in new jobs and training opportunities for local people. At the same time, it will meet demand from around Australia and overseas from resource companies that need specialised technicians and operators of autonomous equipment to support the growth in this technology.”

Croome said earthworks and construction at the site had progressed rapidly since it was announced in January and WesTrac was preparing to accept its first intake of trainees in the coming weeks.

“We are in the final testing phase at present and plan to commence the first official eight-day training course with internal WesTrac team members in early July, followed by courses for a range of mining operators later in the month,” Croome said.

“As the only such facility outside the USA that can provide dedicated training for autonomous operations of Caterpillar equipment, we anticipate strong demand for training over the next three years as resources companies transition their fleets.”

Initially, the focus will be on conversion of existing haul trucks to operate autonomously, with additional courses to be rolled out in line with industry demand, Croome said.

Trainees will be accommodated at the nearby Collie Hills Village while undertaking courses and are expected to boost opportunities for local businesses during their time in the town.

Croome said WesTrac had been working with local businesses to supply goods and services, and expected job opportunities to grow in the future.

Talking mining truck automation with China’s pioneer TAGE Idriver

In a world first, Paul Moore spoke to the senior management of TAGE Idriver, in Beijing, the leading Chinese player in mining truck autonomy solutions, both for new machines and retrofits. CEO Professor Yu Guizhen, CTO Huang Liming and Head of Marketing Li Qingshe gave their insight on this huge and rapidly growing market.

PM: Can you give some background on TAGE Idriver as a robotics solution company and how you came to be active in the mining sector?

TAGE Idriver CEO, Professor Yu Guizhen

YG: Founded in 2016, Beijing TAGE Idriver Technology Co Ltd (hereafter referred to as TAGE) is a high-tech enterprise focussed on the research and development of autonomous driving technology for open-pit mining vehicles. Open-pit mining is regarded as one of the most ideal applications for autonomous driving technology implementation as it involves a relatively restricted area where vehicle speed is low and the transportation routes are well managed. As such, we took the unmanned robotic mining truck as our chosen breakthrough point, to try to help to solve the long standing issues with open-pit mining haulage such as frequent accidents, driver recruitment difficulty and persistently high cost. And we have achieved a lot so far – our system has already been successfully implemented in the Bayan Obo iron ore and rare earths mine (Baogang Group) and the Huolinhe coal mines (SPIC) in Inner Mongolia.

PM: It seems only recently the major mining equipment OEMs in China were working on their own autonomy solutions, but now independent players are dominating…what has changed?

YG: Unmanned transportation solutions for open-pit mines involve complex systems requiring not only vehicle technology, but also autonomous driving technology, dispatching and fleet management technology, and vehicle communication technology. To independently build all those capabilities into one platform is a tough challenge for the Chinese traditional mining equipment OEMs. This is why independent players with advanced autonomous driving technology but working in close cooperation with the OEMs are in a more competitive position to deliver open-pit mine unmanned transportation solutions in China.

PM: The market for these independent autonomy system tech providers seems very competitive in China; several other companies are also active – what would you say makes TAGE Idriver stand out from the rest?

HL: First I would say system integrity. As the earliest player engaged in the development of unmanned transportation solutions for open-pit mining and the first to put them into practical operation in China, TAGE has delivered complete solutions and has a mature product portfolio including OBU (Onboard Unit) product series, RSU (Road Side Unit) and Cloud Control Platform. The OBU product series includes unmanned mine truck terminal products, bulldozer vehicle terminal products, excavator vehicle terminal products, crushing station terminal products and external on-road vehicles terminal products. Then there is functional adaptability. Open-pit mine transportation is complex, especially in China. On the basis of intellectualisation and interconnection of the unmanned mine trucks and the cloud based dispatching control platform, TAGE’s products seamlessly connect every step of mining transportation process, so as to make the system capable of working in an actual operational scenario, which is extremely critical for commercial implementation.

TAGE Idriver CTO, Huang Liming

Then there is system reliability and multiple safety aspects. TAGE’s OBU products are designed in accordance with vehicle grade certification to meet the operational reliability requirements of the harsh environments (low temperature, vibration, etc) in the mining area. Our system has achieved multiple redundant security designs, which mainly includes CCU (Central Control Unit) security redundancy, wireless network redundancy, cloud platform DHBS (Dual Machine Hot Backup System) redundancy, etc. Finally I would mention engineering design ability. TAGE has a vertically structured and expert team in the open-pit mining industry, who have rich experience in engineering design and system simulation verification of unmanned transportation in mining.

PM: Is the main potential currently working with equipment OEMs or the mines directly, or both?

YG: Both, I have mentioned already Baogang and SPIC as mining customers we have ongoing projects with and we are also closely cooperating with top Chinese OEMs like Inner Mongolia North Hauler (NHL), XCMG and Shaanxi Tonly.

PM: The Chinese market is also very price sensitive. How is it possible to provide these complex technologies to these mines at a low enough price they will accept?

TAGE Idriver Head of Marketing, Li Qingshe

LQ: In China, the ordinary consumer market is very price sensitive, but for high-tech production equipment, price is not the decisive factor. TAGE’s unmanned system is capable of creating substantial additional benefits to customers such as labour cost savings, increased operation time, reduced fuel cost and tyre wear cost reduction, and most importantly, zero accident risk to operators. Meanwhile, our prices are still very competitive – the ROI of our system is very attractive to most of our potential customers.

PM: Chinese mines are not known for having extensive comms networks or using the latest fleet management systems. How do you ensure your mining customers meet the minimum standards your systems need to work in terms of networks?

HL: When it comes to telecommunication, China has a good upstream and downstream ecosystem, and wireless communication networks have been widely deployed in mining areas in China. Some large state-owned mining areas have already deployed 4G wireless private networks, so as to realise fleet management and video monitoring under manned transportation conditions. Along with the rapid introduction of unmanned transportation in China’s open-pit mining areas, 4G private networks or 5G networks have been mainly chosen as the mainstream choices for new mining area construction and existing mining area network upgrades. Currently, the major equipment manufacturers and communication service operators are actively cooperating with us to promote unmanned transportation and 5G.

PM: Are Chinese mines now widely trialling LTE and 5G networks? Do you think many mines will go straight to these latest technologies?

HL: As I said, telecommunication technology in China is developing rapidly. China’s Government has spared no efforts to promote the macro strategy of ‘New Infrastructure Construction’. In this positive environment, many mine areas have begun promoting 5G demonstration projects, and TAGE has also carried out 5G demonstration implementation at one of our unmanned transportation projects.

PM: Is there potential for autonomous mining in Chinese underground mines and is this something already happening? Is it a market TAGE Idriver is involved in yet?

YG: China has a large number of underground mines but in many of them mechanised hauling with mobile vehicles is not the major means of transportation – many of these mines instead use conveyors, skip haulage, etc. But we are aware that a variety of autonomous transportation equipment types are being experimented with in Chinese underground mining, however, TAGE is currently focusing on the open-pit mining industry only.

PM: How would you say your system differs from those offered in the global market by Cat, Komatsu, Hitachi and ASI?

Wide-body dumpers, sometimes called tippertrucks, are used in their 100s at many Chinese mines, so their automation is a big part of the unmanned projects taking place in China

HL: To start with, TAGE’s system designs are based on China’s unique mining area circumstances and transportation process requirements, which are often more difficult and more complex than the mining situations in which overseas counterparts are working. In order to ensure continuity, efficiency, and reliability, we must consider in our offering allowing switching between various driving modes (such as from manned to unmanned or to remote control etc) so as to adapt to the unique characteristics of China’s mining areas. Secondly, the vehicle models utilised in China’s mining areas are quite diverse. There are many brands and types of rigid mine trucks but also many types of non-rigid wide-body dumpers, sometimes called tipper trucks, in China, so our OBUs have to adapt to the control characteristics of various truck models to serve the different customers. In the mining areas where wide-body dumpers are deployed, there are usually hundreds of them in the fleet and sometimes more than a thousand, which places harsh requirements in terms of capacity and reliability on the cloud-based dispatching and control system. Finally, there are a large number of existing mine trucks in China, so to offer autonomous modification solutions ie retrofits for those existing trucks has huge commercial potential. We have already accumulated rich engineering experience and made considerable commercial progress in this field.

PM: What is making big mining groups in China look at automation, is the major push a drive towards safety or productivity, or both?

YG: Both. Productivity is obviously important, but safety is probably the top concern as the Chinese Government has issued strict legal rules that impose stringent safety requirements on mine management.

PM: Most of the Chinese examples of autonomous fleets I have read about seem to be closed loop trials – are any Chinese mines actually using autonomous fleets in normal production yet?

LQ: The attempts at unmanned transportation of mining vehicles in China started much later than that in other countries. The whole industry is still in the transformation stage from small batch trial operations to large scale commercial implementation. As the leading player and the first to get commercial contracts in China, TAGE is standing at the forefront of the industry both in terms of technology maturity and user acceptance. We achieved multi-fleet unmanned operation in Bayan Obo iron mine in 2019, and by the end of 2020, all the mine trucks there will have been modified and fully put into unmanned transportation. For the non-rigid wide-body dumpers, we recently signed a large contract for 200 unmanned dumpers in the Ordos coal mining region. This project will be completed within two years, and the first batch of 50 dumpers will be in operation by the end of 2020. Some other contracts are also under negotiation, so we can say that the large scale commercial implementation phase is already underway.

PM: I have not seen reference to autonomy being applied at some of the largest operations like the Zhungeer, Pingshuo coal mines or the Julong Copper mine in Tibet, are these operations also looking at autonomy?

LQ: TAGE’s existing customers like Baogang and SPIC are giants in their respective fields. And the large mining groups Zhungeer, Pingshuo and Julong that you mentioned have also been paying close attention to unmanned transportation. We are communicating with them closely and they have clearly expressed their intention to carry out unmanned transportation projects going forward.

PM: The focus currently seems to be mining trucks. What about blasthole drill or excavator autonomy – is this an area you are also working on and can you give any examples?

HL: At present, in order to ensure the high efficiency of transportation, we have only developed and deployed unmanned systems on mine trucks. As for blasthole drill rigs, excavators, bulldozers and other auxiliary equipment, although they are still operator controlled, we have upgraded them with vehicle terminal devices to enable them to locate and interactively cooperate with unmanned mine truck fleets.

PM: On the truck side, is the focus mainly on larger trucks or are you also working on projects involving smaller trucks, eg 100 t class and smaller, including the tipper non-rigid trucks that are very common in Chinese mines?

HL: Our current solution is adaptable to both large mine trucks and non-rigid wide-body dumpers. The two types of truck are mainly different in terms of vehicle control. In addition, the transportation technical procedure is different in the mine areas using the two types of truck, so we have to do adaptive development to meet the specific needs of each fleet type.

TAGE Idriver says it is at the forefront of the mining truck autonomy industry in China both in terms of technology maturity and user acceptance

PM: How significant is your recently signed deal with NHL to work with them to produce a new NTE200AT truck – is this the first time your system will have been applied to a ‘new’ mining truck as opposed to a retrofit?

YG: Yes and no, we started to modify NHL’s existing mine trucks with unmanned technology via retrofit in 2018, and have also jointly developed drive-by-wire trucks with a pre-installed unmanned system. This year we are confident we will carry out pre-installation with our proven solution on a large scale with the new NTE200AT 186 t truck fleet for SPIC, which will be a new milestone for us and for NHL.

PM: Do you see a lot of opportunities for TAGE Idriver outside of the China market such as where Chinese trucks are being sold (eg the new NHL deal with Yancoal), or where you are able to work with older or more basic truck designs, such as in India?

YG: We hope of course to work together with Chinese mine equipment OEMs to serve their customers both in China but also all over the world, as the use of Chinese mining trucks in the global market is increasing.

Caterpillar, Barloworld to talk up mining equipment and power solutions at Indaba

Caterpillar and its southern Africa dealer, Barloworld Equipment, are set to present a broad range of machines, technology and support services at next week’s Mining Indaba, in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Caterpillar exhibit at Indaba, running from February 3-6, will feature digital displays of electric power generation systems, surface and underground mining equipment, and Cat MineStar™ technology capabilities – ranging from vehicle safety systems, such as operator fatigue monitoring, to production systems using teleremote, semi-autonomous and autonomous machine operation.

Caterpillar has recently introduced several new underground hard-rock mining vehicles in Africa. The new R1700 underground LHD brings the latest technology for semi-autonomous and fully autonomous operation to the region. The loader also delivers more than 30% greater fuel efficiency, 65% more lift and tilt force, and 15 t capacity – 20% more than its predecessor, yet in the same dimensional envelope, according to Cat.

Using MineStar Command for underground, the new R1700 (pictured) can be operated from a remote location to keep miners away from potential hazards, Cat says. “The system also boosts utilisation by allowing immediate entry after blasting and by reducing shift change time to nearly zero.”

In addition to the R1700, Caterpillar has introduced several LHDs and underground trucks equipped with EU Stage V engines and emission controls. “Reducing emissions helps miners improve the underground working environment,” it said. On top of this, and with the goal of zero underground emissions in mind, Caterpillar is continuing to develop the battery-powered R1700 XE.

Erik Elsmark, Region Manager for the Caterpillar Underground Mining Division, said: “Caterpillar and Cat dealers are supporting the whole African continent and all types of underground mining applications – big and small mines and all minerals.

“In the past several months we have delivered machines covering our full product range, demonstrating that we are well positioned to meet our customers’ needs.

“Starting with our AD22 underground articulated truck to our R2900 LHD, our equipment delivers exactly the size class and power needed for the application. With distribution centres in Southern Africa and Middle East and our dealer network in all countries of the African continent, we are able to achieve world-class service.”

The extensive line of Cat surface mining machines and technologies will also be a talking point at the event.

Caterpillar has recently expanded its line of electric drive mining trucks in the past year to include the 794 AC, 796 AC and 798 AC. Recently, a South Africa mining operation took delivery of several 794 AC trucks (pictured above), which have 291 t capacity, the company said. “This model has already proven its high productivity and superior speed on grade in a wide variety of applications,” Cat remarked.

In the Cat drill line, the latest model is the MD6200 rotary blasthole drill, designed as a production drill with the flexibility to do pre-split drilling – all in a package that Caterpillar says is its most transportable rotary drill yet. The MD6200 is designed to perform rotary or DTH drilling in single-pass or multi-pass modes and can drill holes of 127 to 200 mm in diameter, according to Cat.

Cat MineStar Command now includes systems for autonomous operation of mining trucks, semi-autonomous operation of dozers, and semi-autonomous as well as autonomous rotary drills. These systems enhance safety, boost production and lower cost per tonne, Cat says.

Mine power experts will also be on call at the show, with the representatives keen to talk about the ability for Cat generators to deliver reliable, continuous power, temporary power, or a combined heat and power solution. “The Cat team customises and installs systems for every phase of mining,” it said.

Caterpillar says it offers the industry’s widest range of diesel, gas and dual fuel generator sets; automatic transfer switches, and switchgear for seamless integration. Additionally, it offers microgrids, fully-integrated power systems that utilise solar panels, energy storage and monitoring and control systems in conjunction with any configuration of Cat gen sets.

Conuma Coal chooses Komatsu 830E-5 electric drive haul trucks for Wolverine

Conuma Coal Resources has replaced a fleet of haul trucks at its Wolverine metallurgical coal mine, in British Columbia, Canada, with five new Komatsu electric 830E-5 models supplied by dealer SMS Equipment.

Conuma said it carried out “comprehensive engineering and financial analysis” on this move and determined the deployment of the new trucks would “meaningfully increase production” at the mine, largely due to their improved overall availability. Contributing factors included easier maintenance and higher durability, while the 830E-5’s are also quieter and more fuel-efficient than the existing haul trucks, according to the company.

John Schadan, Conuma’s President, said: “Conuma is confident that we have chosen the right partners for results with Komatsu equipment and SMS Equipment’s parts, service and support. Their proven results and experience speak to the quality of their products and service.”

The first 227 t-payload 830E-5 was released to the mine, which produces more than 1.5 Mt/y of hard coking coal, at the end of August, and the remainder of the fleet will be delivered over the next two months. The new trucks complement existing equipment that SMS Equipment supports on Conuma’s mine sites, the companies said.

Dennis Chmielewski, EVP of Mining at SMS Equipment, said: “SMS Equipment is committed to working with Conuma through the long term to ensure full support, resulting in maximised uptime and availability of their Komatsu fleet.”

The Komatsu 830E-5 electric truck is a leader in the 250-ton (227 t) class market with proven durability and reliability, according to the mining OEM. Powered by a 2,500 hp (1,864 kW) Komatsu SDA16V160 engine, the drive system provides efficient transfer of power to the ground while realising low fuel consumption and excellent reliability, it added.

Trolley assist to take off, ABB’s Hammarström says

Thanks to Boliden’s recent trial at its Aitik open-pit mine, in Sweden, the subject of trolley assist is back on the mining industry’s agenda.

Offering environmental and productivity benefits, trolley assist technologies have been spoken of for decades. In the height of the oil crisis of the 1970s, numerous studies examining applications were completed and miners made preparations to reduce their reliance on diesel.

Despite this, widespread industry adoption has not occurred. There have been some installations in Africa, in addition to one in Turkey (Kisladag), but the technology has not caught on to the extent many thought would happen.

ABB, which supplies not only batteries, drives and motors for battery-electric equipment, but can also provide the infrastructure required for trolley assist projects, believes the market is about to turn once again. Gunnar Hammarström, Global Product Manager Trolley Electrification Systems for ABB, thinks there are three main reasons why it is about to take off.

“One is the legislation and environmental part of the business case,” he told IM.

Boliden, which has moved from the 700 m trolley line trial at Aitik to confirming it will install an additional 3 km of trolley line at the mine, plus 1.7 km at Kevitsa (in addition to the accompanying conversion of diesel-electric haul trucks), says it will reduce its diesel consumption by 5,500 cu.m/y when its investment is complete. That is a big number.

“Another completely different reason for why demand has been picking up, especially for larger trucks, is there are a lot of diesel-electric trucks coming into mines,” he said. These trucks already have an electrical system on board to tap into, which makes it easy to put them on a trolley line.

Lastly, fuel prices are increasing all the time, Hammarström said. This is leading miners to diversify their energy mix to help reduce input costs.

When added to the productivity gains that can be achieved with trolley assisted haul trucks and the reduction in noise when trucks run on this line, it is hardly surprising Boliden is not the only one charging into trolley assist.

In the last year alone, First Quantum Minerals has said it will equip its Cobre Panama copper-gold mine, in Panama, with trolley assist, while Austria iron ore miner, VA Erzberg, has announced it intends to electrify the main haul road of its Erzberg mine site and operate a fleet of T 236 trucks from 2021 under trolley assist.

On top of this, RNC Minerals has said it is studying the use of trolley assist at its Dumont nickel-cobalt project in Quebec, Canada.

While trolley assist has been used long before the mine electrification phenomenon we know today gained traction, Hammarström sees trolley assist helping facilitate this market move.

“Generally speaking, I think for most of the vehicles you have in a mine, you can go on battery, but it is very far into the future where you have major uphill transportation of all your production in the mine through batteries,” he said.

The technology involved with stationary charging and the ability to re-charge the battery when going downhill would need to improve on the biggest haul trucks to make it a viable proposition, he explained.

“Yet, if you look into the future – and not that far – a diesel electric trolley might be an intermediate phase,” he said. “If you have invested in trolley now, you can certainly use it when you have batteries (driving the trucks).”

This could see battery-powered haul trucks carry out tasks ‘off-line’ when going downhill or on a flat before they ‘attach’ back onto the line for uphill transportation of material when the battery is recharged.

“I think after diesel-electric powered haul trucks, it will be a really good chance for on-board charging,” he said of the trolley infrastructure.

Autonomous haul trucks coming to Vale’s Carajás iron ore mine

Vale says it is to start trialling autonomous haulage at its Carajás mine in Pará, Brazil, following a successful deployment at its Brucutu iron ore mine in Minas Gerais.

The company plans to run both autonomous and manned trucks at the operation, the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, it said.

Completion of the autonomous testing phase is planned to June 2020, when the autonomous vehicles begin to operate. The number of autonomous vehicles will increase year by year and, depending on the test results, may reach 37 in 2024.

This year, the company’s Brucutu iron ore mine began operating exclusively with autonomous haul trucks. Thirteen Caterpillar 240 ton (218 t) 793F CMD fully autonomous trucks, managed using the Cat autonomous haulage system, Command for hauling, part of its MineStar™ suite of technology products, are now running, after the company equipped seven trucks with this technology in 2018.

Combined with a staff development and training plan at Carajás, the autonomous innovation aims to increase the safety of operations, in addition to generating environmental benefits and a competitive edge, Vale said.

Two autonomous trucks are expected to start the testing phase in an isolated area of Carajás mine by the end of November, but training of the operators began in October. In addition to autonomous haulage, three autonomous drills started operating in the mine last year, Vale said.

Vale explained: “In an autonomous operation, trucks are controlled by computer systems, GPS, radar, and artificial intelligence, and monitored by operators in control rooms located miles away from the operations, providing more safety for the activity. When risks are detected, the equipment shuts down until the path is cleared. Sensors of the safety system can detect larger objects, such as large rocks and other trucks, as well as people near the roads.”

Compared with conventional transport, productivity of the autonomous operation system is higher, according to Vale. “Based on the technology market data, Vale expects to increase the useful life of equipment by 15%. Fuel consumption and maintenance costs are also estimated to be reduced by 10%, and the average speed for trucks will increase,” it said.

Autonomous operation also brings important environmental benefits. The reduced consumption of fuel by the machines results in a lower volume of CO2 and particulate matter emissions and less waste, such as parts, tyres and lubricants.

According to Antonio Padovezi, North Corridor Director for Vale, in addition to the safety factor, the use of autonomous equipment in Carajás will ensure greater sustainability for Brazilian mining. “It is another breakthrough with great economic, environmental, and social gains. It reduces employees’ exposure to risks, increases competitiveness, reduces emission of polluting gases and promotes professional training and development, following a natural trend experienced today in the market worldwide,” Padovezi said.

Implementation of the autonomous operation is combined with a staff development plan, which includes creation of a training centre in the city of Parauapebas by the supplying company. The plan is along the lines of Brucutu, where all conventional truck operators will be reassigned to other activities. At Brucutu, part of the team is managing and controlling the autonomous equipment while another part is taking on new “automation-related tasks”. Some employees have been reallocated to other areas.

Vale is deploying a digital transformation program as part of its Industry 4.0 developments.

This has allowed the company to increase productivity, operational efficiency, and safety, in addition to improving its financial performance and driving innovation, the company said.

Technological innovations developed by the company include the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, mobile applications, robotisation, and autonomous equipment (such as trucks and drills).

The program will also support the strategic pillars presented by Vale this year – improve the company’s operational approach to safety and operational excellence as well as bring a positive impact to society, becoming a development facilitator for the areas in which it operates while promoting a safer and more sustainable industry, Vale said.