Tag Archives: MineStar

Caterpillar to introduce battery-electric and autonomous haulage tech at Newmont ops

Newmont has announced a strategic alliance with Caterpillar Inc to deliver a fully connected, automated, zero carbon emitting, end-to-end mining system that will see the introduction of first-of-a-kind battery-electric haulage technology and automation at the gold miner’s Cripple Creek and Victor and Tanami mines in the USA and Australia, respectively.

The announcement comes a day after Newmont’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Dean Gehring, told the Energy and Mines Virtual World Congress that the company’s primary focus for decarbonising its mobile mining fleet was on battery-electric options. It also follows the deployment of autonomous haulage solution technology at the Boddington mine in Australia (control room, pictured).

Together, the two companies will collaborate to create a safer, more productive mine, and substantially support Newmont in reaching its 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets of more than 30%, with an ultimate goal of being net zero carbon by 2050, the companies said.

Tom Palmer, President and CEO of Newmont Corporation, said: “A year ago, Newmont announced industry-leading emission reduction targets because we understand the human contribution to climate change. We followed with a commitment to invest $500 million over five years to identify pathways forward as we firmly believe that we must make bold, lasting commitments to achieve the necessary change for a bright, healthy future.

“Today, we furthered that commitment by announcing a new strategic alliance with Caterpillar to address climate change by fundamentally changing the mining industry through the rapid development and implementation of a comprehensive all-electric autonomous mining system to achieve zero emissions mining.”

Newmont’s surface and underground mining fleets are responsible for approximately 40% of the company’s carbon emissions, and building a new model for surface and underground mining is critical to delivering on Newmont’s emissions reduction targets, the company said.

Newmont will also be supporting Caterpillar’s validation of evolving features and functionality within the MineStar suite to be deployed across Newmont’s surface and underground assets globally. This deployment facilitates centralised production and asset management.

“Caterpillar is committed to providing transformational advancements in safety, sustainability and technology,” Jim Umpleby, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc, said. “We share Newmont’s dedication to a reduced-carbon future, and we’re honoured to work together on this industry leading effort.”

(From left to right) Rob Atkinson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Newmont, Tom Palmer, President and CEO, Newmont, Jim Umpleby, Chairman and CEO Caterpillar Inc, and Denise Johnson, Group President, Caterpillar Inc

Under the agreement, Newmont plans to provide a preliminary investment of $100 million as the companies set initial automation and electrification goals for surface and underground mining infrastructures and haulage fleets at Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor (CC&V) mine in Colorado, USA and Tanami mine in Northern Territory, Australia. The goals include:

  • Introduction of an automated haulage fleet of up to 16 vehicles at CC&V planned through 2023, with a transition to haulage fleet electrification and implementation of Caterpillar’s advanced electrification and infrastructure system with delivery of a test fleet in 2026. Actions include validating first-of-a-kind battery-electric haulage technology in the years prior to full production of autonomous electric haulage equipment;
  • Caterpillar will develop its first battery electric zero-emissions underground truck to be deployed at Tanami by 2026. The deployment includes a fleet of up to 10 battery-electric underground haul trucks, supported by Caterpillar’s advanced electrification and infrastructure system. This includes first-of-a-kind battery electric haulage technology for underground mining in 2024, the introduction of battery autonomous technology in 2025, with full deployment in 2026.

Together, Newmont and Caterpillar plan to validate equipment, infrastructure, technologies and processes to transform both surface and underground mining, focusing on safety, automation, decarbonisation, optimisation, data and asset management across Newmont’s global operations, the miner said.

“Leveraging Newmont’s scale and operational capabilities, the alliance sets the stage for the rapid development and deployment of the technologies, ultimately improving safety, productivity and energy efficiency across the mining industry,” it added.

Railveyor brings in Cat MineStar GM Jim Hawkins as new CEO

Rail-Veyor Technologies Global Inc (RVTG) has welcomed James “Jim” Hawkins as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective October 1.

Hawkins takes over the executive duties from Jim Fisk who filled the role during a year-long global search. Fisk remains as Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors.

During a career spanning 35 years at Caterpillar, Hawkins led various parts of the organisation in the functional areas of Engineering, New Product Development, Sales/Marketing, Dealer Administration and Product Management. Most recently he served as General Manager of the MineStar technology business, where he was responsible for the development, sales, implementation, operations and support of technologies developed for the mining industry to aid customers in enhancing their safety while increasing productivity and efficiency.

Notably, he led the organisation to develop and commercialise autonomy for mobile equipment – a project which created unparalleled customer value and positioned the company as a leader in this transformational technology, RVTG said.

Hawkins said: “I was attracted to Railveyor by the potential of this technology to improve the safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability of how material is moved in the mining industry. We have a great team of people with tremendous experience in solving customer problems, and I am honoured to lead them as a part of the Railveyor organisation.”

Fisk added: “The product continues to prove its value to more and more customers around the world and so, again, we’re at a turning point in the life of Railveyor as a company. I have no doubt that Jim Hawkins has the experience, insight and character to wisely lead our accelerating enterprise into the next chapter of Railveyor.”

One of the latest Rail-Veyor contracts is at PJSC Sukha Balka’s Frunze underground iron ore mine in Ukraine.

Hawkins is a graduate of the University of Nebraska with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and has completed the Executive Leadership Program at Stanford University.

Cat to bolster MineStar Edge platform with Guide and Surface Management additions

Caterpillar has added two new capabilities to its cloud-based MineStar™ Edge platform – MineStar Guide and Surface Management.

Accessed alongside Equipment Tracking and Production Recording data from the same office computer or tablet in the field, the additions further augment the Cat® MineStar Solutions suite of technologies.

Edge, Cat says, features the latest technology advancements to measure, manage and optimise mining operations. Using data fusion, machine learning and artificial intelligence, it continues to grow as it collects data, identifies patterns and learns to make decisions.

Guide, available in early 2022, serves as a new platform for high-precision on-board, while Surface Management is an enhanced office platform for Guide, which is currently in development.

Using the advanced capabilities of the Edge platform and the most advanced GNSS technology, MineStar Guide provides the next generation high-precision system for grading and loading operations, according to Cat. Real-time feedback improves operator efficiency and increases machine production.

Featuring a new user interface inside the machine’s cab, Guide offers intuitive operation, which makes it easier to train new operators. Its on-board, dual-receiver system offers improved machine heading and data to increase grading and loading efficiency.

Working through enhanced 3D grade control and design visualisation, Guide provides high-precision block and material identification that is automatically provided to the operator and operations. Grade, block and material designs are also automatically sent to the machine, based on location, to ensure compliance to plan, increase productivity and reduced rework.

Guide offers “stakeless” ore control and regular elevation updates, reducing the need for surveyors in the field to improve safety, Cat says, with the company claiming the enhanced level of automatic blade control provided by Guide will help reduce operator fatigue when grading to design.

Operator and production key performance indicators are sent to the machine through MineStar Edge, empowering operators to stay on schedule.

Guide demonstration units were installed on the Cat 992 wheel loader, Cat 6060 hydraulic mining shovel cab and Cat 24 motor grader displays, as well as inside the technology area, at the recent MINExpo 2021 event in Las Vegas.

3D planning with MineStar Surface Management

Accessed through the integrated MineStar Edge platform, new MineStar Surface Management delivers to the field planning and material information created in the office, Cat says. The next-generation grading and loading platform leverages data provided by Guide-equipped machines for precise execution of planned versus actual production.

With the new Edge platform, Surface Management allows reports to be viewed on office computers or in the field on laptops and mobile devices. Its 3D visualisation of virtual and augmented reality substantially improves project progress viewing, Cat says. The mobile platform gives users the ability to zoom and rotate on particular areas of the site for a more detailed view.

“A powerful material management tool, Surface Management automatically generates fused digital modelling from multiple data sources for improved accuracy,” the company said. “It tracks haul roads, dumps, loading areas and other truck destinations.”

Users can review designs, blocks in progress and as-built areas. Reporting capabilities include timeline advance and comparison with swipe to previous or future and volume calculation. Increasing program flexibility, Surface Management gives customers the freedom to choose the reporting method, according to Cat.

Cat says dozens of mine sites rely on Edge’s Equipment Tracking and Production Recording capabilities with fleet installations ranging from fewer than five to more than 80 machines.

Cat improves efficiency and cost per tonne with 7495 mining shovel upgrades

Caterpillar has updated its 7495 and 7495 HF electric rope shovels with the result being an up to 10% increase in operating efficiency.

Drawing from more than a century of rope shovel innovation, the 2021 Cat® 7495 and 7495 HF Electric Rope Shovels (ERS) combine multiple standard feature upgrades to improve machine productivity, while component enhancements, increased frame durability and improved serviceability help reduce cost per tonne of material moved by as much as 15%.

Dan Wyatt, ERS Product Value Stream Manager, said: “Consistently, our customers tell us machine availability and productivity are primary contributors to their operation’s success. From the full adaptive control system for HydraCrowd™ to more innovative technology and data security, the advances made to the 2021 electric rope shovels reflect our commitment to meeting their needs.

“Many of these improvements are compatible with shovels in the field, so customers can realise these gains through upgrades to their existing fleets as well as new machine purchases.”

A new propel gear case for the 7495 and 7495 HF models nearly doubles the life of propel gear cases in some extreme operating conditions, Cat claims. Precise adjustments to gearing geometry and advancements in tooth hardening enhance gear case durability and productivity. The result is lower total cost of ownership of as much as $8/h when the drive system is replaced at one scheduled time.

Additionally, an ecology drain simplifies oil draining and enables kidney-loop flushing, which reduces abrasion-causing contaminants and oil change frequency.

Updates to the 7495 AC electric drive system deliver greater reliability, improved maintenance access, enhanced safety, and expanded high altitude and temperature capabilities, the company says. A liquid-cooled motion regulator cabinet efficiently dissipates heat generated by electrical components and enables operation at -40°C to +50°C and altitudes as high as 5,250 m without derating.

A faster propel transfer switch cuts lag time by 75% to improve productivity, while common motors in multiple applications means fewer parts to stock, improved parts availability and simplified maintenance, Cat says.

A reconfiguration of the crawler carriage allows drive shaft and tumbler replacement from the outboard side without removing the propel transmission. This slashes maintenance time by days while enhancing safety, Cat says. With this design, thrust loads are evenly distributed on large, tapered roller bearings rather than bronze thrust plates, increasing durability to align with 25,000-hour planned rebuilds, even in harsh environments.

Stress from every load passes through the shovel’s swing rack. This is where an enhanced design includes a single-piece rail casting that eliminates vertical segment cracks to increase durability. The rail provides a uniform path for roller movement, preventing rollers from coming loose and creating irregular wear patterns. The upgraded third rail improves access for inspection and retightening, in addition to providing added support to the thrust rail during operation. New swing girder bushings and girder-to-chassis shim designs offer improved access, reducing service time.

“All major rope shovel structures are built with high-strength steel and rugged castings, joined and thermally stress relieved to deliver reliable operation in harsh mining conditions,” Cat says. “Full penetration, profiled and ground welds are made at critical junctures, and MT, UT and X-ray inspections ensure weld quality. Structures are stress-relieved to prevent cracking, and white painted interiors facilitate inspection.”

Both the 7495 and 7495 HF ERS models now offer a full Cat bill of materials, streamlining the parts ordering process and improving parts availability, the company says.

Technology increases efficiency

Both the 7495 and 7495 HF come standard with Product Link Elite™, which transmits critical machine operating data such as utilisation, location and condition via cellular or site internet connection. Added router functionality helps to protect data security. Advanced productivity tools within Product Link Elite enable a cycle segmentation algorithm, and the combined data allows for advanced analysis of productivity, Cat says.

When linked with the available Cat MineStar™ Fleet, real-time machine tracking produces a comprehensive overview of all equipment assets to assist with fleet management and productivity.

Providing real-time feedback to improve loading efficiency, available MineStar Terrain uses guidance technology and an in-cab display to deliver precise dipper position guidance. Optional MineStar Health delivers critical event-based machine condition and operating data, while its advanced diagnostic and analytic tools improve service efficiency, the company says.

The standard Operator Assist – Enhanced Motion Control simplifies machine operation to promote high production while protecting the machine. This system is designed to yield more reliable crowd rope replacement schedules, full design life for hoist ropes, reduced wear on crowd brakes and longer life for hoist gear case components, according to Cat

HydraCrowd

A new adaptive control system (ACS) – a final piece of a multiphase enhancement initiative for HydraCrowd – delivers up to 25% cost savings on the ACS valve, resulting in up to 5% total cost of ownership saving for the entire system, Cat says. Lower initial costs, rebuildable elements and improved accessibility combine to reduce the time required for replacements. The new design also increases reliability without significantly changing the HydraCrowd maintenance schedule, according to Cat.

The new circulation filter employs two smaller, easily accessed filters that do not require roof panel removal for replacement. More affordable than the previous single-filter design, the new configuration also reduces replacement time, Cat says.

A new filter placed at the pump drive transmission improves filtration of the lubrication fluid, helping to extend the life and reliability of the system by reducing contaminants and decreasing wear. The new pump drive transmission filter assists in reducing unplanned maintenance events to decrease downtime.

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.”

Fortescue celebrates 100th autonomous haul truck conversion at Chichester Hub

Fortescue Metals Group has celebrated an important milestone in the rollout of autonomous haulage technology at its Chichester Hub operations, in the Pilbara of Western Australia, with the conversion of its 100th autonomous truck.

The full conversion of 108 haul trucks at the Chichester Hub, which comprises the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines, is expected to be completed in September 2020, it said.

Since the introduction of Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology at Fortescue in 2012, 168 trucks have been converted across the company’s Solomon and Chichester Hubs. This has seen Fortescue’s autonomous haul fleet move around 1,400 Mt of material and achieve a greater than 30% increase in productivity levels (compared with previous manned fleets), it said.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Fortescue’s AHS deployment represents the largest fleet conversion to autonomous haulage in the industry.

“Our history of embracing leading-edge technology has ensured Fortescue remains at the lowest end of the global cost curve and remains fundamental to driving sustained productivity and efficiency improvements across our business to ensure we continue to deliver enhanced returns for our shareholders and key stakeholders.

“Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology has improved safety outcomes across our operations and we’re very pleased that the Automated Mining Projects team has also achieved this important milestone in the truck conversion program with zero harm to any team members.”

Workforce skills development has been a key aspect of Fortescue’s automation project, it said, with the company’s training and redeployment program successfully transferring or upskilling team members to new roles across the business.

“Training is at the heart of everything we do at Fortescue and as we continue the integration of autonomous trucks across our sites, this ethos has guided our efforts to ensure no redundancies due to automation and to deliver significant benefits to employees from the opportunities offered by this project,” Gaines said.

Fortescue was the first company in the world to deploy Cat autonomous haulage on a commercial scale at the Solomon Hub. It was also the first in the world to retrofit Command for Hauling (part of Caterpillar’s MineStar technology) on a Cat 789D and Komatsu 930E haul truck.

The iron ore miner’s fleet of 168 autonomous trucks have now travelled in excess of 47 Mkm since AHS was first introduced – the equivalent of 65 return trips to the moon.

And, as part of the Chichester Hub automation project, 549,500 parts have been fitted to date across 100 trucks.

Cat revamps 6060 hydraulic mining shovel

Caterpillar has launched its next generation 6060 hydraulic mining shovel, which, it says, features multiple design enhancements and new components that advance machine performance, durability, serviceability, and operator comfort.

The new 6060, which replaces the 6060B in the hydraulic mining shovel lineup, features updated engines, optimised hydraulics, heavy-duty structures and undercarriage, Cat electronics and a state-of-the-art cab, according to the company. It is also fully integrated into Caterpillar product support systems for efficient Cat dealer services.

One of these new-generation shovels is set to operate at Anglo American’s in-development Quellaveco mine, in Peru, as part of a fleet that includes autonomous 794 AC trucks.

The 600-t class mining shovel has a bucket payload of about 61 t/pass in both face shovel and backhoe configurations. This makes it an efficient four-pass match with the 231-t payload Cat 793 mining truck and five-pass match with the 291-t payload Cat 794 AC mining truck.

Twin Cat 3512E engines are optimised for high performance, fuel efficient operation and increased durability, according to the company.

For North America, the engines are equipped with a maintenance-free diesel oxidation catalyst emissions control system, do not use diesel exhaust fluid and comply with US EPA Tier 4 Final regulations, Cat says. The updated engine design boosts reliability and extends time between overhauls by 10%.

The combination of this updated engine and optimised hydraulics enables 10-15% percent better fuel efficiency compared with the previous face shovel model, with 3-5% greater efficiency for the backhoe configuration, Cat says. For reduced maintenance, engine oil and filter change intervals are doubled to 1,000 hours.

Structural, undercarriage and slew ring upgrades help maximise uptime and productivity and lower cost per tonne, according to Cat. To boost longevity, the Cat undercarriage features heavy-duty rollers, idlers and tracks, along with a revised track tensioning system. The superstructure frame, face shovel and backhoe attachment structures, meanwhile, have been redesigned to reduce structural repair and extend service life via increased plate thicknesses and geometrical improvements. The slew ring design extends component life with a triple-race roller bearing and sealed internal gearing.

“The 6060 features a new, state-of-the-art cab and operator station with industry-leading visibility provided by the large floor window and expansive windshield and side windows,” Cat said. “Unrestricted lines of sight to the crawler tracks and pit floor aid the operator when repositioning the shovel and when loading trucks.”

A pneumatically cushioned operator seat can be heated and ventilated. It also has integrated joysticks and is multi-adjustable to offer optimal ergonomics.

This cab also includes two additional seats: a full-size seat and laptop desk for a trainer and a fold-up seat for an observer. The three-seat cab design is the first in this size class of shovels, Cat says.

Improved sound suppression on the power module keeps spectator sound levels low, while the sound suppressed cab provides a quiet working environment for the operator, according to the company.

The first of several features within the available Operator Assist suite, Enhanced Motion Control is standard on the shovel. This improves machine controllability and loading efficiency while reducing linkage and cylinder mechanical contact, according to Cat.

The machine’s five-circuit hydraulics design allows simultaneous control over two cylinder motions, two travel motions and swing to boost digging and loading efficiency, the company added.

The next-generation design helps improve service and maintenance efficiency by offering more room inside the service compartment and easy ground-level accessibility to the service station, Cat says.

Integration of Cat hoses in the design allows for local hose sourcing, while improved hose and component organisation further reduces machine downtime.

Sensors located throughout the 6060 monitor operating data, record faults and give audible and visual notifications of issues to the operator. Product Link™ Elite, which is standard for the first time on the 6060, enables data communication for remote machine health monitoring.

The 6060 comes ready to accept Cat MineStar™ Solutions, a suite of mining technologies geared to enhance mine safety, improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

In addition to the next generation diesel-powered 6060, Caterpillar continues to offer the electrically powered 6060 AC FS (face shovel) for mines optimised for such machines.

Caterpillar hits 2 billion tonnes hauled milestone with autonomous haulage system

Caterpillar has again hit a significant milestone in autonomous haulage – achieving 2 billion tonnes hauled using Cat® MineStar™ Command for hauling.

The mining OEM’s autonomous haulage system (AHS) has doubled the amount hauled in the 16 months since reaching 1 billon tonnes hauled in November 2018, it said.

“In just a bit over six years, we’ve safely hauled 2 billion tonnes – a milestone we achieved significantly faster than our competitors,” Sean McGinnis, MineStar Solutions Product Manager, said. “This milestone makes Command for hauling the most productive commercially available solution, and it’s something mining people are noticing.”

Since commercially launching Command for hauling in 2013, Caterpillar has continued to improve the speed of implementation. “We’re launching Command on more sites and implementing it more quickly, so more of our customers can experience the safety and productivity gains that autonomous hauling delivers,” McGinnis said. In the company’s March quarter earnings call on April 28, Andrew Bonfield, Chief Financial Officer of Cat, said 282 trucks were running autonomously using Cat Command for hauling.

McGinnis credits input from Caterpillar customers for the success of Command for hauling. “One of the reasons that Caterpillar has been so successful in expanding Command and delivering results is because we listen to and partner with our customers. They identify features, functionality, and even the autonomous truck models they need for their operations.”

One of Cat’s latest AHS customers is Newmont’s Boddington gold mine, in Australia, which earlier this year announced it would become the world’s first open-pit gold mine with an autonomous haul truck fleet. This followed the signing of a deal with Caterpillar, which would involve adding some new AHS-enabled Caterpillar 793Fs to the haulage fleet and retrofitting some existing 793Fs with AHS capabilities, a Newmont spokesperson confirmed. In the same March quarter earnings call, Cat’s Bonfield said the company expected to start shipping the first of its new Cat 793F autonomous trucks to the miner next year.

Over the last six years, MineStar Solutions has also continued to grow its expertise in autonomous operations – not only in hauling but also with autonomous dozers, drills and underground loaders, the company said.

John Deselem, Global Autonomy Operations Manager, said: “The skills and knowledge of our MineStar team are unmatched in the industry. Beyond getting better at implementing the system, we’ve become trusted advisors for mine sites looking to take advantage of what autonomy makes possible. We listen to their needs, then work together to build the ideal solution for their mine.”

“The push toward autonomous mining doesn’t show any signs of slowing,” McGinnis said. “We have projects in the works with a number of large mining companies either looking to expand their current autonomous haulage operations or implement new ones.”

The Caterpillar autonomous fleet is made up of Cat 789D, 793D, 793F and 797F trucks, as well as a fleet of Komatsu 930Es. The Cat 794 AC electric-drive autonomous truck will be ready for autonomous haulage later this year. Command equipped trucks have driven over 67.6 million kilometers without a lost-time injury, according to the company.

“Command for hauling has proven its value to mining customers,” McGinnis said. “That value is reflected in the rate at which the Cat autonomous fleet achieved this milestone. The fleet is growing quickly and production continues to climb as mining companies benefit from greater truck productivity, increased truck utilisation, consistent truck operation, and reduced costs.”

Cat’s autonomous hauling and dozing platform receives wireless signal boost

After a year of extensive testing, Caterpillar says it has completed the validation of a wireless technology that will improve networking capabilities for users of its Cat® MineStar™ Command automation offerings for hauling and dozing.

The wireless technology is provided by Fluidmesh Networks, a leader in wireless networking for operational technology applications involving fast roaming and autonomous vehicles, which only yesterday became the subject of a takeover offer from Cisco.

Cat Command for hauling helps improve productivity, efficiency and profitability while reducing overall costs, according to the mining OEM, while Cat Command for dozing provides line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight solutions to keep operators out of the cab and out of harm’s way.

Cosimo Malesci, Fluidmesh Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Sales, said: “Fluidmesh’s goal is to help customers achieve higher mine-wide productivity by offering a better wireless transport layer. We are extremely pleased to have been able to achieve this milestone with Caterpillar and extend our solutions to Command customers.”

Fluidmesh employs a multiprotocol label switching based solution over wireless, a routing technique capable of reducing roaming times, packet drops and overall network complexity, according to the company.

Gabe Klyber, IT Communications Consultant for Cat MineStar Solutions, says this translates to higher uptime, higher throughput, and lower latency for Command customers when compared with other solutions. “It will also give our customers more options when it comes to connecting trucks, dozers and other supporting assets,” Klyber said.

The Fluidmesh solution, transmitting at 5 GHz end-to-end, uses artificial intelligence algorithms and dual-polarity antennas to improve transmission in challenging environments, according to Fluidmesh. “This approach adds diversity to the networks supported by Caterpillar for use in Command applications,” Cat says.

Malesci added: “Validating wireless solutions for Command offerings and tele-remote operations takes a massive amount of energy and dedication. We are committed to assisting mining companies with their connectivity needs and are truly excited to be able to offer to Command customers a radical new approach to wireless networking.”

Caterpillar releases new blasthole rig for large-scale mining

Caterpillar says its newest ultra-class rotary blasthole drill rig provides the optimal mix of on-board air, feed force, rotary torque and machine mobility.

Designed for large blasthole production drilling, the MD6380 can deliver a hole diameter range of 251-381 mm, single-pass hole depth of 19.8 m and multi-pass hole depth of 39.5 m, according to the company.

The MD6380 powertrain is designed to efficiently manage loads generated by the compressor and hydraulics, delivering superior fuel economy, Cat says. The compressor is configured with electronic regulation and variable volume air control, allowing the driller to match compressor output with drill tool and application needs. It also lowers standby pressures while the machine is in idle, further improving fuel efficiency.

The MD6380 is capable of pulldown force of 49,895 kg and rotation torque of as much as 20,880 Nm, Cat says, adding that the Cat 3512C diesel engine produces 960 kW and delivers emissions performance equivalent to US EPA Tier 2 and EU Stage II. The powertrain offers extended durability and high availability to help boost use and lower costs, the company added.

Controlled through Cat electronics, the MD6380 has integrated machine protective features and interlocks to help keep operators safe and the machine up and running by preventing potential failures or misuse. Cat Electronic Technician makes troubleshooting quick and easy, the company said. Drill electronics also provide a common platform for the integration of automation solutions.

The MD6380 features a spacious cab that offers superior operator comfort and machine control, Cat says, while an intuitive multi-function joystick controls and touchscreens promote efficient operation.

Display screens are adjustable to suit the driller’s reach and line of sight, and the driller can easily tram from a seated position, according to the mining OEM. “With a full-length driller window, large pane glass around the cab and four standard high-definition cameras, operators have excellent views of key areas,” Cat says.

The machine also features Drill Assist, which delivers automated functions including auto level, auto retract jacks, auto raise and lower mast, and auto drill. The drill depth monitoring system helps to reduce both over- and under-drilling.

The MD6380 incorporates Cat Terrain for drilling, with the MineStar™ technology providing precise hole location, production reporting and strata reporting. Terrain seamlessly connects to Cat Command, offering a path to remote operation and autonomous drilling, Cat added.

“The drill features a best-in-class working envelope with a low centre of gravity and ample approach angles,” Cat claims. These attributes aid manoeuvrability, allowing it to navigate quickly and efficiently hole-to-hole and bench-to-bench.

The Cat excavator-style undercarriage has grease lubricated track pins, positive pin retention and automatic track chain tensioning – all to help the undercarriage deliver extended durability and optimal performance on grades and in tough operating conditions, the company says.

The MD6380 is designed to be rebuilt multiple times for lowest lifecycle costs.

“With parts, maintenance services, condition monitoring and component rebuilds, Cat dealers help ensure high productivity and lowest cost per tonne,” the company said.