Tag Archives: WesTrac

Immersive to supply simulators, solutions for Rio’s Gudai-Darri automation

Rio Tinto has enlisted the help of Immersive Technologies and its equipment simulators to further its autonomous haulage footprint at the new Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia.

The mine, which will operate Caterpillar autonomous trucks equipped with Cat MineStar™ Command for Hauling system, will use simulation-based training solutions from Immersive Technologies to address the workforce development challenges within autonomous haulage operations with a focus on improving the safety and efficiency of their operator workforce, Immersive said.

Rio has used such systems from Immersive for over 17 years, understanding the value of investing in simulators for operator capability development, including equipment productivity and reliability initiatives, Immersive said.

Rio Tinto Vice President, Human Resources, Scott Browne, said: “This is an important component of our comprehensive training program for AHS, which includes supporting new team members as well as upskilling existing employees. Gudai-Darri will be one of the world’s most technologically advanced mines. Preparations are well under way to ensure its workforce is ready to take on the high-tech jobs on offer.”

Focused on capability development in the usage of the autonomous system, Rio Tinto partnered with Immersive Technologies to provide a solution to support the mine-readiness schedule and objectives, Immersive said. Specific training products include a platform which simulates a Cat 6060 excavator, Cat D10T dozer and Cat 18M grader. All simulator modules are equipped with an autonomous system panel and provide a safe and effective environment for training by allowing learners to operate their equipment while interacting with the autonomous trucks and managing their work areas as required, the company added.

The simulator solution is complimented by machine pre-start inspection software, which provides a detailed visualisation of equipment components, including autonomous components fitted to machines. Additionally, a ‘Virtual Classroom’ product hosts complex autonomous procedures that immerses learners in a safe and repeatable virtual environment which enables the development of deep knowledge and muscle memory of operational procedures, Immersive said.

Greg Karadjian, Regional Vice President Australia of Immersive, said: “Immersive Technologies is at the forefront of workforce development for autonomous haulage mining operations with deployments of simulation-based training solutions in more than 17 autonomous sites globally, by utilising blended learning systems, simulation and human performance analytics our solutions are preparing the workforces of the future.”

Back in 2019, Rio, Caterpillar and WesTrac signed an agreement to supply and support mining machines, automation and enterprise technology systems at Gudai-Darri, with Rio confirming the supply of a fleet of 20 autonomous 793F trucks as well as four autonomous blast drills.

Gudai-Darri will deliver a new production hub for Rio Tinto’s iron ore business in the Pilbara. Once complete, the mine will have an annual capacity of 43 Mt, underpinning production of the Pilbara Blend, Rio’s flagship iron ore product.

Ausdrill commissions automation-ready Cat MD6250 drill at Boggabri

Ausdrill says it has just commissioned the first of four new Caterpillar MD6250 drills at the Boggabri coal operations in New South Wales, Australia.

The machine has been successfully commissioned on site four weeks ahead of the contract start date, according to the Perenti company, with the help of the WesTrac team at Tomago, NSW.

These M6250 drills come with the next level of drill automation and driller assist, Ausdrill says, including one touch auto levelling and auto drilling functions combined with Cat MineStar Terrain for drilling to improve safety, productivity, reliability and accuracy.

Back in February, Perenti reported its Surface Mining Industry Sector Group had been awarded A$155.5 million ($113 million) in new and extended contracts. This included a three-year contract (with options to extend) for production drilling services with Boggabri Coal Operations (a part of Idemitsu Australia Resources Group) at Boggabri.

The MD6250 is designed for both down-the-hole drilling in hard rock and rotary drilling in softer rock. The blasthole drill carries out single-pass drilling and multi pass, as well as angle drilling, according to Cat.

MACA is currently running an MD6250 at the Bluff coal mine, in Queensland, while AngloGold Ashanti Australia, with support from Flanders and Tropicana Mining Alliance partner, Macmahon Holdings, now has five autonomous Cat MD6250 drill rigs as part of its drilling fleet at the Tropicana gold mine, in Western Australia. Thiess, Cat and WesTrac have also introduced an MD6250 drill rig with autonomous drilling capability at Mount Pleasant, in New South Wales, in a phased 12-month pilot project.

WesTrac tackles heavy machinery and equipment risks with ELW project

Caterpillar dealer WesTrac is looking to remove personnel from within the footprint of live equipment in up to 90% of common maintenance tasks with its new Elimination of Live Work (ELW) project.

The ELW project has involved WesTrac staff from across the business identifying technology, tools and work processes that can eliminate safety risks involved with people working near live equipment.

Initially introduced to WesTrac by a major mining client as part of ongoing safety improvement initiatives, it has since gained industry-wide focus, the company said.

WesTrac’s Newman Branch Manager, James Davey, said the aim of the project, which involves a range of mining-focused original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and service teams, was to eliminate significant risk factors associated with working on heavy machinery and equipment.

“The purpose of this project is not to deal with little nicks and cuts, it’s about saving lives,” Davey said. “If things go wrong when people are working on live equipment with multiple moving parts, and that can weigh hundreds of tonnes, the results could be disastrous.

“It’s an area of major focus across the Australian mining and construction sectors to continually reduce risks and enhance safety performance.”

Since commencing its own ELW project in 2018, WesTrac has devised a range of specialised tools, some itself and some in collaboration with mining companies and other OEMs.

One such tool, affectionately known as R2D2, is a remote-controlled camera mounted on an anti-vibrating base that can swivel 360° to carry out a wide range of inspections on live machines. Controlled from a tablet, the camera provides the operator with a real-time view and can record the session for closer follow-up investigation.

Davey says the camera’s resolution and 30-times optical zoom allow operators to read gauges, look for leaks and even carry out pre-maintenance checks.

“Inspections are often the first part of a task and this camera allows those carrying out the work to stay out of the danger zone, particularly if a machine is running,” he said.

WesTrac has also developed an ELW Field Service Kit with a range of tooling to allow both mobile and workshop-based mechanics to carry out numerous inspection and testing requirements without the need to work in proximity of high-risk areas, it said.

Davey said the company was currently developing work instructions, expected to be complete within the next three months, and would then deploy specialists to WesTrac’s branches, stores and sites to assist in embedding ELW practices.

“By December this year, we expect all sites to be equipped with the required tools, technology and understanding to carry out 90% of live work tasks under the ELW work practices,” he said. “For the remaining 10% of tasks that still require personnel to work within the footprint, we’re enhancing procedures to ensure an even greater focus on risk elimination.”

Davey said while equipment and service providers typically worked in competition with one another, when it came to safety the attitude was completely different.

“When it comes to saving lives and reducing risk, everyone is willing to share technology, tools and knowledge to drive better outcomes,” he said.

WesTrac has already been recognised for its ELW work with a safety award from BHP and recognition of the ELW program from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

“Over the next 12 months, our goal is to transition ELW from a project to the standard ‘way we work’,” Davey concluded.

WesTrac recognises women working in Pilbara mines with purple Cat grader

A Cat grader with a difference is on its way from Caterpillar dealer WesTrac’s Port Hedland workshop, in Western Australia, to a Pilbara mine site.

Unlike the typical yellow Cat equipment in use across Australia’s mining sector, this is likely to be the only purple grader operating anywhere in Australia, WesTrac says.

The eye-catching finish was applied as part of a machine rebuild by WesTrac and is designed to promote recognition of the Women in Mining in the Pilbara group.

WesTrac Area Manager, Jason Hill, said while the team had painted equipment in various colours including blue, green, pink and black before, it was the first time he’d come across a request for purple.

“It’s not a shade we have on hand as part of the standard Cat colour range, so to meet the brief we engaged one of our key customers and local suppliers that regularly assists us with equipment painting,” Hill said.

“No doubt it will turn some heads when it makes the journey back to site this week and that’s exactly the purpose – to generate recognition and attention for the big number of women working in the mining sector across the Pilbara region.”

Hill said the rebuild was also a great example of mining companies providing work opportunities to support the local communities in which they operate.

“While these sorts of full rebuilds have traditionally been carried out at WesTrac’s Perth workshop, the company also has Caterpillar trained technicians and fully-equipped facilities within its extensive regional network around the state, and mining operators’ willingness to utilise these local workshops is boosting regional employment opportunities,” he said.

“The unusual colour finish has allowed WesTrac to further extend that use of local business as well.”

National Group’s NPE delivers Cat 994K wheel loader to Rio’s Marandoo iron ore site

National Group says its National Plant & Equipment (NPE) subsidiary has delivered Australia’s first rental Cat 994K wheel loader to Rio Tinto’s Marandoo iron ore mine in Western Australia.

After arriving in Perth from the Caterpillar manufacturing facility in Decatur, Illinois, USA, the wheel loader began pre-assembly on February 17 by WesTrac at its Reid Road facility, in WA. From there, the oversized load was disassembled for transportation from Perth to the Pilbara, where final assembly took place on site at Marandoo before being handed over to Rio Tinto to begin work in early May.

Marandoo is one of Rio’s Pilbara iron ore assets to feature autonomy. Back in 2017, Cat and Rio Tinto signed an agreement to retrofit 19 Cat 793F mining trucks for autonomous operation at the site, making it the first fleet of Cat autonomous trucks deployed by Rio Tinto.

National Group said Cat large wheel loaders are well known as the ‘top of their class’ due to their sheer size and durability that ensures maximum availability through multiple life cycles. “The 994K doesn’t disappoint, with a net power of 1,297 kW, an operating weight of over 240 t and a bucket capacity range of 19.1 – 24.5 m³ for hard-rock conditions (up to 43.6 m³ for soft rock), making it the largest wheel loader currently manufactured by Caterpillar,” it said.

Mark Ackroyd, National Group Managing Director, said: “With optimised performance and simplified serviceability, the 994K allows mine sites to move more material efficiently and safely at a lower cost per tonne.

“They are the ideal machine for large mining companies such as Rio Tinto to maximise their efficiency and productivity and reduce the level of ongoing maintenance required.”

Geoff Bailey, WesTrac Executive General Manager of Sales, said: “WesTrac have worked closely with NPE for more than seven years and we’re proud to continue to support the business with industry-leading equipment and technology.

“The 994K can handle large payloads even in tough conditions, loading a matched Cat 789 or 793 haul truck in five to six passes, respectively. It’s a highly efficient option for our WA mining customers.”

Ackroyd said there was currently less than 10 994Ks in Australia, “so we are very excited to own a brand new model and to see it go to work with one of our key clients”.

As many businesses and industries come to a halt due to COVID-19 restrictions, National Group says it is preparing to deliver a range of other machinery to mine sites around Australia in the coming months.

Thiess, Cat, WesTrac collaborating on Mount Pleasant autonomous drilling project

Thiess says it is realising the benefits of drill automation after undergoing a successful field trial at MACH Energy’s majority-owned Mount Pleasant coal operation in the Hunter Valley of Australia.

In collaboration with Caterpillar and WesTrac, Thiess introduced a new Caterpillar MD6250 drill rig with autonomous drilling capability at Mount Pleasant in a phased 12-month pilot project, it said.

The autonomous drill uses state-of-the-art guidance technologies to assist operators in drilling holes to the exact location and depth specified by the drill plan, resulting in safer and more efficient blasting.

Thiess General Manager Autonomous Services, Matt Petty, said the purpose of the pilot was to test the functionality and application of the technology while determining its viability for Thiess’ team, operations and clients.

“This trial is an exciting opportunity for us to investigate the applicability of the technology at our operations and train our people in the remote management of autonomous equipment,” Petty said. “The results are showing significant productivity improvements, safer operations and upskilling opportunities for our people.”

The phased pilot program is progressing through three stages of drill automation – operator mission assist, semi-autonomous drilling and full autonomy and perception, Thiess said.

The current stage, semi-autonomous drilling, automates the entire drilling cycle for one row, including moving between holes, from a remote operator station, it added.

“The drill is now controlled by satellite-guided precision ensuring the blast holes are drilled exactly to the design coordinates and desired floor elevation,” Petty said. “This stage allows our operators to select a row of holes for the drill to navigate and auto drill. Operators also help to monitor and authorise the auto-tram between holes to ensure safety is maintained.”

In the coming months, the drill will be fitted with proximity detection and collision avoidance technology, enabling full automation, Thiess said.

Mount Pleasant Drill Operator, Zac Brasington, said the remote operation of the drill had proven safety, precision and equipment utilisation benefits for his team.

“Working remotely eliminates operators’ exposure to potential high-risk activities and allows the drill to function without operator restrictions,” Brasington said. “The remote station replicates the seat and controls of the machine’s cab, allowing us, as operators, to control the machine with minimal decrease in functionality or productivity.

“It’s also helping drive consistency at our operation with improved accuracy in hole placement, trajectory and depth.”

Thiess’ team has been working closely with Caterpillar and the WesTrac team on the implementation plan throughout the trial process, it said.

Brasington added: “I’ve also had the opportunity to gain new skills and competencies. It’s very rewarding knowing I’m one of the few operators, worldwide, who is able to operate an autonomous drill.”

The outcome of the trial will help to inform how Thiess delivers automation as part of its services offering, according to the company.

Thiess first began mining at Mount Pleasant on November 20, 2017, following a successful five-month mobilisation period. The contractor is responsible for providing a full mining service and increasing mining production to 10.5 Mt/y run-of-mine, according to its website. The team is also undertaking progressive rehabilitation at the site.

Dargues gold mine on the road to production: DRA Global

DRA Global says it is in the final stages of the implementation of the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) of the gold concentrate plant for Diversified Minerals’ Dargues gold project, in New South Wales, Australia.

The engineering company was awarded the EPC contract back in January 2019 after detailed design for the project commenced in March 2018. At this point, first ore was expected to be processed in early 2020.

As of March 2020, the plant construction and wet commissioning has been completed, DRA said. Hot commissioning is planned to take place soon and expected to be completed in early April. After this, the DRA team will hand over the 330,000 t/y plant to the client’s operations team, it said.

Dargues, owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services, was previously expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits to produce a sulphide concentrate for export. This could see Dargues produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

The mine, which will be operated by PYBAR, is also set to incorporate tele-remote loading. In December, Diversified Minerals took delivery of a second new Cat R1700 underground LHD following commissioning of the first loader during August.

The new machines are equipped with Caterpillar’s next generation Command for Underground technology, giving them automation capabilities that will allow them to be driven via tele-remote from the surface from early-2020. This will realise significant productivity, efficiency and safety gains, according to PYBAR.

Members of the Austmine Board were recently invited to a tour of the Dargues gold mine (pictured).

WesTrac Tomago puts latest Cat mining line on show

Caterpillar dozers, motor graders and a large wheel loader were on show at WesTrac’s Tomago site in New South Wales, Australia, earlier this month, as the Cat dealer looked to showcase some of the mining OEM’s latest offering.

The annual Mining Equipment Showcase gave customers, trade associations and employees the opportunity to get up close to the latest mining machinery, from March 9-13.

The mining equipment on display this year included the new Cat D11 and Cat D10T2 large track type tractors (dozers), Cat 18M3 and Cat 24 motor graders, and a Cat 994K large wheel loader.

The Cat D11 large dozer, which is already up and running at BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) Blackwater coal mine in Queensland, Australia, comes with an optional 360° camera system to decrease blind spots, plus a factory-fitted fire suppression system, improved access systems and ground level service centres. Cat has said previously that new load-sensing hydraulics and new drive train components deliver up to 8% fuel efficiency gains compared with the previous dozer model.

The Cat 24 motor grader has front and rear cameras for improved visibility, along with a working at heights package that includes handrails and hand holds to improve safe access. It is also the first model in this range that can be fitted with an optional 8.5 m moldboard to allow for either wider grading (and hence less passes) or grading at an increased speed.

It’s Cat 18M3 motor grader has a service access platform for safer means of access to both the operator’s cabin and maintainer’s access to the machine’s engine. Built on the success of the 16 series of motor graders, it has an increased moldboard length over its predecessor.

The Cat 994K wheel loader, meanwhile, has a powered access system that allows operators to maintain three points of contact when boarding the machine. It also boasts a 29% increase in payload, 19% increase in power and 28% boost in breakout force compared with the previous model (994H). It is also, according to WesTrac, a more productive machine than competitor models in the same range.

WesTrac gets flexible with used, refurbished and as-new parts division

Caterpillar dealer WesTrac is spinning out its FlexiParts™ & Mining Services business to focus on sourcing and selling cost-effective parts, components and attachment solutions from its global network.

The new division will provide clients with access to a broad range of used, refurbished and as-new parts, it said.

A new website at www.flexiparts.com.au with an extensive online inventory is supporting the business online.

“The newly-branded business has operated as a division within WesTrac for some time and is now being established as a separate entity focused on sourcing and selling cost-effective parts, components and attachment solutions from their global network,” WesTrac said.

FlexiParts & Mining Services also allows customers to sell unwanted machinery and parts and will purchase and dismantle machines to ensure there is a large range and diverse inventory on hand, the company said. As well as Cat parts and equipment, the business sources and sells a broad range from other OEM brands. Exchange and outright purchasing options are also available for non-powertrain products, it added.

Travis Cargill, WesTrac General Manager Mining & FlexiParts, said the service was being ramped up in response to customer demand for more flexible solutions, differentiated price points and faster delivery times, which are not always possible when waiting for new parts and components.

“The major advantage of FlexiParts & Mining Services is that it provides customers with cost-effective options, sourced specifically for their needs, from anywhere in the world,” Cargill said.

“That often reduces wait times that can occur when purchasing new parts and provides customers with significant savings.

“It’s also important to note that while the business is evolving into a standalone entity, it will continue to maintain its close ties with other divisions within WesTrac and retain in-depth familiarity of customer sites and requirements.”

Another major benefit provided to FlexiParts & Mining Services customers is the provision of transport frames, specifically designed to allow safe transportation of a broad range of items, the company said.

Danielle Bull, WesTrac General Manager Product Support, said WesTrac has a duty of care under the Chain of Responsibility legislation to ensure safe transportation of bulky items, which is a key concern for customers.

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on ensuring we can provide fit-for-purpose transport frames for a large range of parts, so customers know they not only have access to well-priced parts, but delivery to site will be a seamless process.”

WesTrac building Caterpillar autonomous training facility in Western Australia

Caterpillar dealer WesTrac has announced it will build a technology training facility in Collie, Western Australia, focused on providing courses in autonomous operations.

The centre will be the only Caterpillar Autonomous Training Facility in the world apart from Cat’s own testing and training ground in Arizona, USA. The facility will be developed on land owned by Bluewaters Farm Holdings in Collie’s Coolangatta Industrial Estate.

The project is supported by a grant through the Collie Futures Fund, awarded to WesTrac by the State Government’s Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

The announcement was made at a ground-turning event in Collie attended by Western Australia Premier, Mark McGowan; Minister for Regional Development, Alannah MacTiernan; Collie-Preston MLA, Mick Murray; and WesTrac CEO, Jarvas Croome.

Croome said the investment includes a new fully autonomous Cat 789D off-highway truck, construction of an autonomous operations zone and training room facilities. The construction is scheduled to commence this month at the greenfield site near Collie’s Bluewaters Power Station.

Local contractor Piacentini & Son will carry out the earthworks and installation of key infrastructure, with training scheduled to commence in May.

“The initial focus will be to provide training in fit-out and maintenance requirements for the conversion and operation of existing Caterpillar haulage vehicles,” Croome said.

“Over time, we anticipate expanding the range of courses on offer to ensure the facility caters for the recognised skills of the future that will be in demand as the resource sector evolves.

“It’s an opportunity to position Collie and Western Australia as a world leader in advanced technology and skills development in automation and autonomous operations.”

McGowan said: “People will come from all over the world to utilise this facility – the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere and the second worldwide for Caterpillar.”

While WesTrac had evaluated several potential locations, Collie was the ideal centre for the training facility, according to Croome.

“The town has a long mining history and an experienced workforce with the potential to help run and develop the training facility over time,” he said.

“There’s also a vibrant community and plenty of supporting business infrastructure, plus a unique range of natural attractions and easy access to the wider South West region, which adds appeal for Australian and international training participants.”

Croome said WesTrac and Caterpillar clients across the Asia Pacific region had shown significant interest in having access to such training and strong demand was expected when the facility commenced operations.