Australian iron ore major Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) has hit a milestone in the rollout of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) at its Western Australia operations, with the conversion of its 100th driverless truck.
Transforming the company’s 108 haul trucks at the Chichester Hub, which includes the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines, is expected to be completed in September 2020, the company said.
Since introducing AHS technology in 2012, Fortescue has converted 168 trucks across its Solomon and Chichester Hubs.
The miner’s autonomous haul fleet has moved roughly 1.4 billion tonnes of material and achieved a greater than 30% increase in productivity levels, when compared with traditional driver-operated fleets, it said.
The rapid truck conversion put Fortescue on track to becoming the first iron ore producer to have a fully autonomous haulage operation this year.
Workforce skills development has been a key aspect of Fortescue’s automation project, chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said.
“Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology has improved safety outcomes across our operations,” she noted.
Last year, however, one of its massive driverless trucks collided with another one at the Christmas Creek iron ore mine. There were no injuries.
Fortescue, the world’s no. 4 iron ore producer, has been a trailblazer in automation. It was the first miner in the world to deploy Caterpillar autonomous haulage on a commercial scale at the Solomon Hub.
It was also the first in the world to add Command for Hauling (part of CAT’s MineStar technology) on a CAT 789D and Komatsu 930E trucks.
The news comes as covid-19 is changing the way technology projects in mining are executed as the pandemic appears to be accelerating the industry’s digital transformation.