BHP going automated, and truckless

BHP has announced that it will implement a fleet of automated trucks at its new Jimblebar mine, and is investigating going completely truckless at future operations.

Taking a leaf out of Vale's book, the miner is looking towards in-pit crushing and conveying systems as an alternative to trucks on site, the SMH reports.

Earlier this year Vale announced that it will make its Carajas Serra Sul S11D iron ore mine completely truckless.

It will use shiftable conveyor belts instead of off-highway dump trucks to move the ore from the mine to the processing plant.

"This is the first time a 'truckless' solution will be used on a large scale at an iron ore mine," according to the company.

Now BHP executive Marcus Randolph has said the miner is looking into using the same technology at its mines.
''The technology has shifted … We have got to a point where we have sizers and crushers of substantial size that you can move in a day or two,'' he said.

''We are getting to the point where you can bring your crushers much closer to the face and it is practical to run mines without the truck, where the loading gear loads straight into your bulk mining system.''

He went on to say that the site can run much more efficiently if the trucks are removed.

''When you run a truck, it takes 10 to 11 employees for every truck,'' he said.

''It takes 4½ to five to run it, all the crews that do the maintenance on it, all the camp people that do the camp cleaning and cooking and everything else.

''If you go autonomous you get rid of half of those. If you go truckless you get rid of all of them. You do this at a time when you see increasing diesel prices, carbon taxes, a number of reasons why getting rid of trucks or using fewer trucks is desirable.''

Vale supported this, stating that using "a truckless system significantly reduces operating costs and produces lower carbon emissions.

"If the S11D mine were to be operated using trucks it would need around 100 trucks and consume 77% more diesel per year."

However it is not completely discounting the future of trucks on its sites, saying it will "focus on both".
"We haven't talked a lot about what we're doing on these fronts because I'm not sure being first is going to be a great idea," Randolph told The Australian.

"The real goal is to get the productivity and the cost improvements these technologies can offer. Just implementing them doesn't do that," he said.

"I think we are going to leapfrog [Rio Tinto and its automated fleets] in terms of what we're going to get out of it."

At its progressing Jimblebar operation, BHP has already earmarked a fleet of between 12 and 15 automated Caterpillar trucks.

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