A fleet of 20 autonomous Cat 793F trucks will soon be hauling ore at the Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri mine, currently under construction in the Pilbara region. They’ll be joined by four Cat autonomous drills, along with loaders, dozers, graders, water carts and shovels – making up Rio Tinto’s first Pilbara mine to be operated using mostly Caterpillar machinery.
The relationship with Caterpillar and regional Cat dealer WesTrac at Koodaideri will enhance Rio Tinto’s industry leading Mine of the Future program. All components of the mining value chain will be connected for the first time by making increased use of automation and digitization.
“Technology is rapidly changing our mining operations as we harness innovation to make our operations safer, smarter and more productive,”
Rio Tinto iron ore CEO Chris Salisbury said.
“This extension of our partnership with Caterpillar and WesTrac represents an exciting step for our business. We’re pleased to be partnering with Caterpillar and WesTrac to help make Koodaideri the most technology-enabled and innovative mine in our Pilbara iron ore network.”
The autonomous 793F trucks will be equipped with Command for hauling, an autonomous haulage solution that is part of the Cat MineStar suite of technology offerings for mining. Command has been proven in the Pilbara, with nearly 200 autonomous trucks in service and over 1.0 billion tonnes safely hauled. Mines have reported productivity increases over 30%.
Rio Tinto and Caterpillar have also agreed to study the potential for increased levels of automation of heavy mining equipment at the mine in the future.
Koodaideri has more than 70 innovations in scope including:
A digital replica of the processing plant, accessible in real time by workers in the field;
Fully integrated mine automation and simulation systems;
Advanced automation including an automated workshop; and
Numerous data analytics capabilities and control loops to optimize production and reduce downtime.
“The Caterpillar team is looking forward to working with Rio Tinto to apply our proven mining equipment and technology and to implement additional MineStar autonomy solutions at Koodaideri – a new mine designed to capitalize on leading edge technology,” said Denise Johnson, Caterpillar group president, resource industries. “We are excited to work together to advance Rio Tinto’s mine automation and digitalization program.”
The $2.6 billion mine will deliver a new production hub for Rio Tinto’s iron ore business in the Pilbara. Construction work has started, and first production is expected in late 2021. Construction features a processing plant and infrastructure including a 166-km rail line connected to the existing network. Once complete, the mine will have an annual capacity of 43 million tonnes, underpinning production of the Pilbara Blend, Rio Tinto’s flagship iron ore product. A pre-feasibility study into Koodaideri Phase 2, which could increase annual capacity to 70 million tonnes, is ongoing.
As mine construction advances, WesTrac will manage logistics of mining machine delivery and commissioning and will play a key role in implementing technology solutions. “WesTrac is excited to be part of the Koodaideri project and to work with Caterpillar to deliver ground-breaking equipment solutions to support Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future vision,” said Jarvas Croome, WesTrac CEO.
(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)
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