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Driverless truck contract awarded for metal operation

Hitachi driverless truck
Hitachi driverless truck

An automation specialist and multinational mining equipment provider have both won a tender to operate autonomous heavy vehicles at a metal mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

ASI Mining and Epiroc recently secured the automated haul truck contract for Hancock Prospecting’s Roy Hill Iron Ore Mine, 370km southwest of Port Hedland.

The agreement tasks the successful tenderers with working with Hitachi and Wenco Mining Systems to converting the existing fleet of 77 man-operated haul trucks into driverless vehicles.

ASI has also procured mining technology integrator Sedna to supply the autonomous haulage system. Integrating other makes and types of mining vehicles into the Roy Hill’s existing Wenco fleet management system will also be an option.

New jobs promised

Surplus staff who are no longer required to drive the trucks will be reskilled and redeployed to other roles. Up to eight trucks will be tested and production verified in the first stage of the conversion. The second stage of full fleet expansion will start in mid-2021.

“We are committed to an automation journey that creates an environment in which our people can develop new skills critical to the workforce of the future,” Roy Hill CEO Mr Barry Fitzgerald said in a public statement. “Our focus is on setting people up to succeed and further contribute to the Roy Hill community.”

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The move came after mining magnate Gina Rinehart, Hancock Prospecting and other mine owners Marubeni, POSCO and China Steel Corporation decided to increase “safe and sustainable” productivity through driverless truck technology.

“Their vision has set us a challenge to seek out partners who have an aligned tenacity and commitment to bring viable autonomous solutions to the table, and I look forward to realising the significant safety and productivity benefits that will come with this shared goal,” Fitzgerald said. “Roy Hill is well positioned to transition to automation.”

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