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Driverless truck rollout continues at multiple metal operations

Fortescue driverless truck
Fortescue driverless truck

A metal producer is quickly converting its man-operated heavy vehicles to work autonomously in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

Fortescue Metals Group confirmed 549,500 parts have been fitted in 100 existing dump trucks during their conversion to Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology at both the Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine and Christmas Creek Iron Ore Mine, each about 400km south of Port Hedland.

The work increased the proponent’s driverless truck fleet by 147 per cent to 168 trucks across both the Solomon and Chichester Hubs. This led to a 30 per cent jump in productivity while moving about 1.4 billion tonnes of material a total of 47 million kilometres, or 65 return trips to the moon, since 2012.

‘No redundancies’

Another eight trucks are still expected to be converted to AHS technology no later than September 2020. Affected employees are being transferred or upskilled for new positions in different areas of the business.

“Fortescue’s AHS deployment represents the largest fleet conversion to autonomous haulage in the industry,” Fortescue chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said in a public statement.

“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.”

90 per cent automation

Meanwhile, WesTrac separately completed work on its Elimination of Live Work (ELW) Project to remove human operation of 90 per cent of routine mine maintenance tasks.

The project involved providing a tablet interface for workers to perform live maintenance and machine inspections from a safe distance via an R2D2 video camera, which is mounted to an anti-vibration base that swivels 360 degrees.

A specially designed ELW field service kit was also developed for both mobile and workshop-based operations to perform inspections without needing to send workers into high risk areas.

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“If things go wrong when people are working on live equipment with multiple moving parts, the results could be disastrous,” WesTrac Newman branch manager James Davey said according to Mining News.

“By December this year, we expect all sites to be equipped with the required tools, technology and understanding to carry out 90 per cent of all live work tasks under ELW work practices.”

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