Tag Archives: WesTrac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WesTrac receives funding boost for autonomous technology training centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WesTrac holds Cat D10T2 dozer handover ceremony with a difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rio Tinto, WesTrac and Caterpillar deploy tele-remote dozing system at iron ore ops

Rio Tinto, WesTrac and Caterpillar have embarked on a project to deploy a new tele-remote dozing system (TDS) at Rio’s iron ore operations in Western Australia that, they say, is wholly focused on operator safety.

Utilising Cat MineStar Command for Dozing and a dedicated operator control centre, Rio Tinto’s solution allows for non-line of sight operation of dozers working in high-risk areas.

Rio Tinto Superintendent Process and Technical, Michelle Woolcock, says the overarching brief was to effectively manage potential safety risks associated with dozers working in areas that were more susceptible to risk.

“The brief was to take the operator out of the line of fire,” Woolcock said. “In particular, the focus was to reduce the risk of operators being in machines that faced a risk of slipping or stability issues, for example when they were working on stockpiles or close to steep walls.”

There are multiple layers of technology and control options involved in the solution, depending on client and site-specific requirements.

Caterpillar Senior Service Engineer, Steve Dougherty, explained: “To start, you need the base remote-control kit. There are different kits available for each machine size. If you wanted to do some basic remote-control work, there’s a kit that includes a console receiver, which is a dedicated wireless link installed on top of the cab.

“There’s a Remote Control Module (RCM) that gets installed under the seat and interfaces with all the base machine functions, and the associated wiring and Wi-Fi network to allow the various parts to communicate.”

The solution includes options for controlling machines within visual range, consisting of an over-the-shoulder console and a dedicated network, which Dougherty says is typically suited to operators needing to perform temporary or one-off, high-risk applications.

“You could run that way all day if you wanted to, but the units are set up with dead-man switches so are really designed for things like machine recovery,” he explained.

“For more long-term applications, like the one that Rio Tinto is rolling out, we set up an operator station which looks very much like a simulator with all the in-cab controls replicated. It can still be run as a line-of-sight solution, but more typically customers opt for the vision kit, which adds four cameras on board the dozer and utilises a customer-supplied Wi-Fi network to relay all of that machine information and the video feeds to the operator station, wherever it may be located.”

While Dougherty says the remote station solution can allow a single operator to control up to five machines at one time in some circumstances, such as strip mining operations, Rio Tinto’s solution is purely designed to move operators into a safer, more comfortable operating environment.

Rio Tinto Superintendent Operational Readiness, Jamie Webster, says the initial rollout of the TDS at the Cape Lambert Port facility, north east of Karratha, is focused on high-risk operations on coarse ore stockpiles with steep gradients and “live” areas where ore is fed into underground tunnels.

“Safety is the number one priority at all Rio Tinto sites and for all employees,” Webster says.

“The message at all levels is that safety always comes first. Every single person on site, from leaders to cleaners, are empowered to stop if they ever feel unsafe and we always look at ways to improve processes so that no one is in harm’s way.”

According to Webster, the TDS project is one such area where process improvements were identified to reduce risk.

“These dozers are operating in quite a tight area around lots of fixed assets,” he explained. “That means work is quite intricate and the real benefits will be realised in pushing ore from the stockpiles into the live zones.

“The dozers are working at the top of a large stockpile and if a dozer slips it could go down a bank, or if it’s working while the apron feeder is operating, the ground could fall away from underneath it. Obviously, we already have processes in place and technology to mitigate such risks, but putting the operators into a station away from the danger zones eliminates any potential risk to them being harmed, no matter how small that risk might be.”

While removing operators from high-risk zones is driving the rollout of the solution, Woolcock says it does not mean removing operators from site.

She says remote operators still need to be “close to the action” and have detailed site knowledge to function most effectively and efficiently. “As much as ‘non-line-of-sight’ operation sounds like it could be carried out from anywhere, the reality is that these operators are multi-tasking in their roles,” she says.

“It will depend on the state of the coarse ore stockpile and what’s coming in and going out. They need to be able to visually inspect and determine what needs to be done. They might spend an hour or two dozing then move on to other tasks while they wait for the stockpiles to be replenished.

“When you need dozer operators, you typically need all hands on deck, and when you don’t need them, if they’re sitting in a control centre hundreds of kilometres away, it’s far more difficult to stay on top of other tasks they might carry out on site.”

Woolcock and Webster admit there was some resistance among the first operators to be trained in TDS, but as they became more familiar with the solution, the operators embraced it.

“A lot of operators quite literally work the dozers through their seats,” Webster says. “They might have worked for decades and are accustomed to feeling the movement. So they’re having to relearn how to drive the dozer without that sense of movement, and they’re relying entirely on the visual feed of information rather than the other senses from being in the mobile rig.”

According to Woolcock, the key to operator acceptance has been allowing them time to use the system and understand the difference the cutting-edge technology will make.

“With the on-the-job trainers (OJTs), they were excited initially to have the chance to learn something novel,” Woolcock says.

“Once the training commenced, a lot of them got quite downhearted because as experienced dozer operators, they had the sense they were going right back to relearning all the knowledge they’d built up over years of manual operation. So they felt like they were starting the first day of school again.

“But it was very much a case of them moving through the classic stages of learning until they had a feel for it and got to that level of conscious competence.

“The transition from resistance to acceptance to championing the new way of working was amazing and I think it was because the OJTs realised they were pioneering new technology.”

Woolcock says two or three operators across each of the Cape Lambert work crews will ultimately be trained in the TDS operations, while the technology is being progressively rolled out across other Rio Tinto sites.

For WesTrac Technology General Manager, Alister MacPherson, the progressive rollout has necessitated a range of adjustments within the mining technology team and rollout methodologies. With multiple deployments, WesTrac aims to identify the repeatable parts of the process and ensure adequate resourcing to fulfil the relevant roles and responsibilities.

“We want as much as possible to roll this out as a programme of work rather than a series of individual projects,” MacPherson says.

“That means firstly ensuring we have completed the right training in areas including product management, project engineering and technical support, then developing a collaborative approach between WesTrac and Rio Tinto to ensure the program is rolled out smoothly.”

WesTrac Product Manager – Mining Technology, Gary Scott, says the Cape Lambert project provided an ideal proving ground to develop the rollout strategies that can be extended to other sites.

“Every site and situation is obviously going to have some unique aspects to it, but there is a set of core requirements that will apply across all implementations,” Scott said.

“It starts with an audit on the available machines to understand the current capabilities, then we can spec up the technology requirements to be fitted to those machines.

“Across an operation like Rio Tinto’s, we’d typically expect to see a fair bit of consistency but there may still be differences based on the age of the site and the asset maintenance and replacement schedules.

“Then when we know what has to be done, we can carry out the installation of the various control modules, the remote operator station and ensure the hardware and software is all communicating. It’s quite straightforward as far as system implementations go, but the complexities come with the detail of configuration and constraint management.”

“The system readily interacts with other Cat control systems including MineStar Terrain, so we can set up working parameters including geofencing and avoidance zones. Essentially, those things are the same whether a dozer is being controlled from in the cab or a remote operating station.”

Those operating parameters and control solutions will be vital as the TDS technology is rolled out across Rio Tinto’s mine sites, including its new Gudai-Darri mine. When production commences this year, the site will be one of the most technologically advanced mines in the world and will feature a large fleet of autonomous haul trucks, water carts and drill rigs. In such environments, any manually controlled equipment, whether in-cab or remotely operated, must be equipped to interact with autonomous machines.

While every aspect of the TDS technology and the way it interacts with other equipment is safety focused, Webster expects that in time the operations will see productivity gains too.

“There’s still a lot to understand about how we can be the most productive with this system,” he says.

“Initially, we’re probably going to be counterproductive compared to in-cab operation, but as we’re learning and developing, and as everyone becomes more familiar with the new way of operating, the added comfort and control will lead to operators being even more productive than we are today.”

Enerpac EVO solution gives WesTrac and Cat 994K wheel loader a needed lift

Enerpac’s EVO synchronous lifting system has come to the rescue of WesTrac in Western Australia, with the Caterpillar dealer in need of an efficient, portable and safe solution to lift its Cat® 994K wheel loader.

The system needed to be operated independently without manual intervention and provide a locking function during the lift, according to Enerpac.

The 200 t Cat wheel loader had to be lifted to a height of 400-450 mm with an accuracy of +/- 2 mm across four lift points: a process carried out on uneven ground, which caused the lifting points to be at different heights. The lifting equipment needed to work independently to the pump and required forklift pockets so it could be manoeuvred into place easily, according to Enerpac.

Enerpac recommended its EVO synchronous lifting system, which, the company says, allows one device to control the entire lifting operation while providing status updates at every point of the process without the need for manual monitoring. By digitally monitoring and controlling lifting operations, users enhance safety and eliminate costly downtime, it says.

“Utilising proven synchronised lifting technology, combined with an expertise in high tonnage cylinder manufacturing, a customised Enerpac solution was developed to provide a high-precision lifting system to lift the Cat wheel loader on challenging ground conditions,” Enerpac explained.

Sanjesh Balgovind, Heavy Lifting Technology Special Projects Manager, Enerpac, said: “With an intuitive user interface, the custom EVO synchronous lifting system is easy to set up and control. It combines high pressure hydraulics and computer controls to monitor and control precise lifting and movement of heavy loads, such as WesTrac’s 200 t Cat wheel loader.”

Assembling and transporting over-dimension vehicles like the Cat wheel loader requires several steps, according to Balgovind.

“It often involves locating and positioning the lifting equipment at the appropriate lift points, removing the wheels, attaching wheel stands, and lowering the vehicle to the ground followed by removing the lifting equipment,” Balgovind says.

“Thereafter, a multi-wheel trailer would be placed under the vehicle and the wheel stands removed before it is ready for transportation. Using short stroke cylinders without synchronous lifting would be time-consuming, cumbersome and could introduce additional risk if the load is lifted at different heights.”

Through an integrated human machine interface, all movements are operated from a central control system displaying live operation and real time status updates of each lifting position. The Enerpac EVO system can deliver an accuracy of up to 1 mm across all lift points and provides stroke feedback and indicative load at each point, according to the company. In addition, there are built-in warning and stop alarms to ensure optimum safety.

The custom HCRL-Series 100-ton (91 t) 18 in stroke cylinders have servo motor-driven lock nuts that provide mechanical load holding across all lift points for a safe work environment, according to the company, while its hardened and robust surface is designed to resist side-loading and cyclic wear. The locknut drive controller is mounted on the cylinder and keeps the locking collar 3-6 mm from the cylinder body. The cylinders are then affixed in custom steel frames with lifting pockets.

The lifting frames are then placed at the respective lift points with forklifts and connected to a custom EVO-Series synchronous lifting system, ready for lifting. As the rear of the truck requires a higher lift point, the frames are further attached to stands for additional height. The cylinders are then placed at the respective lift points with forklifts and connected to the EVO system, ready for lifting. A flow of 3 litres per minute is used to ensure that the locking collar adjustment can keep up with cylinder extension and retraction.

“At a rate of 1 mm/s, the wheel loader is lifted with significant safety and productivity gains,” Balgovind says. “The auto-locking cylinders provide an improved safety application as the load is always mechanically locked during both lifting and lowering operations.

“It is a safe and effective solution for applications with potential safety risks of working with hydraulic-suspended loads. In addition, given the portability of the system, it was brought to site easily and could function in a convenient manner.”

WesTrac to rebuild Rio’s Pilbara dozers at Geraldton facility

Rio Tinto, WesTrac and the Western Australia Government have agreed on a project that will see dozers from Rio’s Pilbara operations head to WesTrac’s Geraldton facility for rebuilds, with up to 54 machines committed between 2021 and 2025.

Western Australia Regional Development Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, welcomed the news, saying it would provide a major boost for the Mid-West’s mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.

The project was negotiated between the State Government through the Mid West Development Commission and industry after feasibility studies identified WesTrac’s Perth and Pilbara facilities were at capacity and unable to accommodate the additional repairs and maintenance required by Rio’s mining operations.

The Geraldton facility will receive up to 12 dozer rebuilds annually, from various Pilbara operations, according to the statement.

The project will support two new, localised apprenticeship opportunities in the Mid-West as well as creating new local skilled jobs and providing pathways to employment with Rio Tinto, the government said. The project also reduces transport times and negates logistical difficulties mining companies face getting heavy machinery in and out of the metropolitan area.

“The state will look to expand the initiative into a cross-regional Smart Specialisation project with linkages to the Kimberley and Goldfields regions, using the Mid-West as a demonstration pilot,” it added.

MacTiernan said: “This is a fantastic initiative that will see more work carried out in our regional centres, rather than shifting to Perth. It confirms that geography is not a barrier to global success for our regionally-based METS facilities, but in fact an advantage.”

Rio Tinto Port, Rail and Core Services Managing Director, Richard Cohen, said: “Rio Tinto is committed to growing regional Western Australia by supporting jobs and training opportunities for local people. Regional investment initiatives like the METS project will deliver ongoing benefits to the local economy.

“By unlocking the capabilities of the Geraldton WesTrac branch, we are significantly reducing transport time by removing the roughly 900-km round trip to Perth. This will lower costs, improve productivity and reduce the risk of driving related incidents that can occur on congested metropolitan roads.”

WesTrac CEO, Jarvas Croome, said the company was committed to developing capacity and capability throughout the state.

“Like many providers in the METS sector, WesTrac is seeing strong demand across all areas of our business due to the level of mining and construction activity,” he said. “That applies to new and used equipment sales, training, maintenance services and equipment rebuilds, and if there are opportunities to expand our offerings in regional centres and provide efficient outcomes for our customers, we’ll happily consider them.”

As well as multiple metropolitan operations, WesTrac currently has branches in eight regional centres including the major Western Australia mining regions. The company also operates as the authorised dealer of Caterpillar equipment in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

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.