As the focus on safety grows on mines and the push for automation strengthens, Hitachi have taken a major step forward with the start of its own autonomous trucktrials.
Hitachi Construction Machinery (Australia) have announced the initial trials of its Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) at the Meandu coal mine.
The first of three trucks from Japan, Hitachi's new EH5000 AC trucks, will arrive later this month.
The announcement came on the back of Hitachi's new plans to develop a comprehensive suite of technologies aimed at providing more autonomous equipment to the surface mining industry by 2017.
The Meandu coal mine, run by Stanwell Corporation, will hold the trials over a three year period.
The move was welcomed by Stanwell general manager Phil David, adding that the operation was "pleased that Meandu had been chosen for the worldwide trial of the new mine truck technology".
The truck manufacturer added that although the trials will take place at Meandu, they will be independent of Stanwell, David stating that trial would not mean a reduction in Stanwell staff numbers at Meandu Mine.
“Hitachi informs us they are likely to employ local people, meaning there would be a small increase in jobs at Meandu,” he said.
Hitachi created the automated system in collaboration with Wenco International Mining Systems, which consists of a variety of advanced drive and traffic control systems components and onboard machines.
Combined with a wireless communications and a fleet management system the dump truck loading, haulage, and dumping operation can be entirely automated.
It works by integrate a GPS that controls the speed and direction of the automated vehicles, indentifying haul roads, intersections and other areas such as stockpiles and crushers.
The trucks then combine that information with a control system that allows precise speed control, helping them to safely negotiate slopes and traffic at the mine.
"In addition, the technology will facilitate higher productivity at a reduced overall cost per tonne. These capabilities are driven by specific customer requirements working in a variety of operational environments and scenarios," Hitachi stated.
Hitachi Construction Australia's general manager of mining, Eric Green, explained that the trial will help it to develop automated mining trucks that can interact with human operated mining equipment.
The trial is expected to provide an extra $1.8 million financial boost in the region over the next two years.