Digital Dozers under contract
Driverless Bulldozers to Blackwater and FMG boots haul trucks to nearly 200
Wednesday 28 June 2017
Mining contractor Wolff Group is claiming an eighteen-month full-scale production trial of driverless Bulldozers at a mine near Blackwater will be an Australian first.
The trial is scheduled to start in July and will involve three semi-autonomous Cat D11T machines performing bulk “pushing” tasks under contract at an open cut coal mine.
“These machines will be game changers for the mining sector, “ Wolff Mining director Terry Wolff said.
“The unpredictable nature of the resources sector means companies need to run more efficiently than ever before.
“Technology will allow for resilience, and not only pave the way for increasing productivity rates, but will also play a critical role in continuity and extending employment.
“It is about being smarter, safer and future proofing business.”
Mining director Wanda Wolff said the machines would add to the company’s workforce and allow people to enter the industry who were previously excluded from in-cab manual operations.
“The repetitive nature of this kind of excavation, including tasks of ripping rock, means workers usually retired before they were 50,” she said.
“These machines will allow operators to be up skilled, creating a more adaptive organisation.
We are excited to be involved, and as a smaller company we will quickly adapt to unlock and fully leverage the potential of this technology in shaping the future of our business.”
The Wolff Group have partnered with Hastings Deering and Caterpillar in the trial.
Hastings Deering General Manager of Mining Mark Scott said previous tests had occurred at Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming USA, but this was the first full-scale production trial in Australia.
“It is also the first production implementation of Caterpillar’s COMMAND for Dozing semi-autonomous tractor system," he said.
"The very latest technology in Caterpillar’s wider MineStar suite of technologies for mine site hauling and drilling automation," he said.
“The semi-autonomous Cat D11T tractors will not only extend the working life of contractors in the field but also create more skilled jobs.
‘One operator will be able to oversee the activities of multiple tractors from a safe and remote location.
“To take advantage of the automation benefits, the Wyoming mine altered a portion of their production sequence so dozers could continue working in the cast overburden, taking advantage of the consistent and optimised operation.
“Dozers operating 24 / 7 at the mine magnify these benefits.”
The trial will run for 18 months, and meaningful production results are expected in around six months.
Fortescue Metals Group has this week also outlined plans to boost the number of driverless trucks at its mines in the next financial year.
The world’s fourth largest iron ore exporter says it will convert an additional 12 trucks at its Solomon hub mining site in the Pilbara to the autonomous haulage technology, in addition to the 56 AHS trucks already operating now. It will also implement the AHS technology to its main Chichester Hub mine site, converting about 100 trucks there.
The company said since it started using driverless trucks at the Solomon Hub in 2012, it has achieved a 20 per cent improvement in productivity.