Gold Fields will soon begin an autonomous truck trial at its Granny Smith underground mine in Western Australia, leveraging the robotic smarts of Universal Field Robots (UFR) and an existing Epiroc Minetruck MT65 it has within its fleet.
In the company’s recently released annual results, Gold Fields stated it was developing its first underground automated truck, ready for trials at Granny Smith in the second half of this year.
Later, the company told IM that this project involved Brisbane-based UFR, with the machine in question having already received the custom paint job (see photo above).
The purpose of this trial is to validate autonomous truck haulage over shift change when the mine is evacuated for blasting, the company said in its annual results, with Rob Derries, Unit Manager: Innovation & Technology at Gold Fields Australia, confirming the truck will initially be tested and validated in a separate area underground at Granny Smith.
“Once validated, we will be operating the automated truck on the main decline over shift change when the mine is normally evacuated for blasting activities, enabling further material haulage in time where activities are normally halted,” he told IM.
The initial truck pilot is expected to continue for up to 12 months with plans to retrofit further trucks in the Granny Smith fleet to operate autonomously over shift change after validation of this initial pilot.
Gold Fields says it is investigating and partnering to develop a number of automation solutions to ensure the safety of its people while also enabling increased productivity.
Derries said: “This trial aligns with Gold Fields’ approach to adopting agnostic technology and automation solutions. In the future, this technology can be adopted on a number of different machine manufactures and types and will integrate with existing teleremote guidance LHDs and Mine Operating Systems.”
UFR, for its part, has been involved in the development of several automation projects within mining, including BLAST DOG™ blasthole sensing and physical measurement technology – in collaboration with IMDEX – and a robotic application for zero-entry work on underground production blastholes – a project it is working on with METS Ignited and several mining companies, including Gold Fields.
Granny Smith produced 288,000 oz of gold at an all-in cost of $1,171/oz in 2022. It is currently mining four lenses from the Wallaby orebody (Z70, Z80, Z90 and Z100), accessed from a single decline. Mining administration and maintenance is located at the Wallaby mine, while ore is processed at the Granny Smith carbon-in-pulp processing plant, 15 km east of the Wallaby underground mine, under campaign milling conditions.
Back in October 2022, Epiroc confirmed an order from Gold Fields for a fleet of 65-t payload Epiroc Minetruck MT65 underground haul trucks with automation features to be used at Granny Smith.