A resources magnate accelerated the driverless technology transition in response to an extreme manpower shortage.
Gina Rinehart recently confirmed her mixed mining fleet would be converted to autonomous haulage systems (AHS) at Hancock Prospecting’s Roy Hill Mine, 370km southeast of Port Hedland.
Starting in March 2023 54 Caterpillar 793F-, 24 Hitachi EH5000- and 18 Hitachi EH4000- trucks will be modified to operate without human drivers. These heavy vehicles will interact with a further 200 customised ancillary vehicles.
Vehicles will safely move within a dedicated autonomous operating zone, with two excavators and numerous ancillary vehicles located at intersections, waste dumps and load areas.
Production verification is complete with 10 haul trucks already fitted with vehicle automation kits and in cab clients. ASI Mining’s Mobius traffic management and on-board automation systems have been installed to help navigate the mine’s virtual map, and communicate with ancillary vehicles and the control room. This is also promised to create the world’s largest autonomous mine, operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
The proponent promised to support affected employees by reskilling and redeploying operators to new roles.
“This is an example of Roy Hill using innovative solutions to meet the challenges of an extremely tight labour market, while supporting our people with retraining and helping them transition into other critical roles of the business,” Roy Hill chief executive Gerhard Veldsman said in a public statement.
“You may be a truckie, tomorrow you might be an apprentice or ship loader operator.”
The remarks came after Rinehart and her executive team spent the past three years shortlisting and appointing both Epiroc and ASI Mining to Roy Hill’s board of directors.
The trio collaboratively developed one of the world’s first autonomous haul truck solutions, which is touted to be “interoperable and scalable” regardless of the original equipment manufacturer agnostic. It also promised to meet safety and productivity metrics and achieve higher productivity rates than conventional haul truck fleets.
“Rinehart, and our owners Hancock Prospecting, Marubeni, POSCO and China Steel Corporation have supported Roy Hill’s smart mine automation journey from the start with their continued commitment to our people and the safe productivity offered by Roy Hill’s smart mine vision,” Veldsman said.