Fortescue revs up Cloudbreak autonomous truck program

The Cloudbreak site. Image: Fortescue Metals Group.

Fortescue Metals Group’s ambition for a fully autonomous fleet of haul trucks is a step closer after the first Cat 789D trucks fitted with the technology started operating at Cloudbreak.

The company will roll out 38 autonomous trucks at the Pilbara site, a project that is part of a broader plan to convert 175 machines by mid next year.

Fortescue’s program at Cloudbreak continues an automation initiative that started in 2012 when it became the first company in the world to deploy Cat autonomous haulage on a commercial scale.

The miner remains on track to become the first iron ore operation in the world to have a fully autonomous fleet with the Cloudbreak milestone.

Its rollout of the automation haulage system (AHS) at Cloudbreak has required the transfer of 160 pieces of machinery to the Cat MineStar Command remote operations server.

Cloudbreak also becomes the first remote mining operation in the world to use the Cat MineStar Command system in production mode.

Fortescue chief executive officer Elizabeth Gaines said the company’s pioneering AHS project was the largest technology program in the industry.

“Our approach to autonomy is to be open and transparent with our plans and to work closely with our team members to offer opportunities for re-training and re-deployment,” Gaines said.

“Around 3000 Fortescue team members have been trained to work with autonomous haulage, including over 200 people trained as Mine Controllers and AHS system professionals. This ensures Fortescue remains transformational and leads to higher skilled workers and jobs.”

Fortescue’s fleet of autonomous trucks has travelled more than 28 million kilometres and has moved over 860 million tonnes of material, delivering a 30 per cent gain in productivity.

In another global first, Fortescue retrofitted Cat Command for hauling, part of the MineStar technology, on Komatsu 930E haul trucks at Christmas Creek.

The 930Es have been operating alongside the Cat 789Ds since November last year, demonstrating the company’s capability to manage and operate the first multi-class truck size autonomous haulage site in the industry.

Fortescue’s introduction of autonomous trucks at Cloudbreak isn’t the only innovation the company has added to the site.

Cloudbreak also hosts a five-kilometre relocatable conveyor which includes two semi-mobile primary crushing stations and feeds directly into the Cloudbreak ore processing facility.

The infrastructure can be positioned approximate to pits and relocated, extended or shortened once an area is mined.

Within two weeks of operation, the conveyor was at full capacity, carrying 5000 tonnes per hour of ore at approximately 25 kilometres an hour.

The conveyor has replaced the equivalent of 12 manned trucks, according to Fortescue.

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