Komatsu to ramp up automation deployment

Komatsu plans to accelerate the pace of mining automation through the ongoing development of its autonomous haulage system (AHS).

The company, which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the commercial deployment of AHS, has more than 100 of the driverless trucks at mines in Australia, North and South America.

Komatsu now hopes to use a proven record of safety, productivity, environmental resistance and system flexibility in various mining environments to accelerate the pace of AHS deployment.

To extend the benefits of AHS at operations with manned haul fleets, Komatsu completed trials of an AHS retrofit kit at a Rio Tinto mine last September.

“The retrofit kit, mounted on a Komatsu electric drive standard truck 830E (nominal payload: 220t), enabled the truck to operate in autonomous mode,” Komatsu president and chief executive Tetsuji Ohashi said in a statement.

“As a result, Komatsu recently received an order from Rio Tinto for 29 AHS retrofit kits, to be installed on 830E standard trucks currently operating at Rio Tinto’s Brockman 4 mine.”

In addition to expanding the retrofit kit to include other Komatsu models with electric drive standard trucks, the company plans to enhance AHS’s mixed-operation functions.

The planned enhancements will enable manned haul trucks of any make to safely interoperate with Komatsu AHS trucks in a blended fleet operation, Ohashi explained.

“Under this initiative, Komatsu has committed to provide mining customers with AHS solutions that meet the growing demand for gradual transition from existing to fully automated mines,” he said.

Komatsu first trialled AHS at a Codelco copper mine in Chile in 2005, achieving the world’s first commercial deployment with the miner in January 2008.

A second deployment followed later in 2008 at a Rio iron ore mine in Western Australia. Rio now operates AHS trucks, which are controlled remotely in Perth, at four mines in the Pilbara region.

Today, AHS operates around the clock, hauling three different commodities, in six mines across three continents. By the end of 2017, the Komatsu system had recorded a cumulative total of 1.5 billion tonnes of hauled materials.

According to Komatsu, the system has reduced load and haul unit costs by more than 15 per cent compared with conventional haulage methods.

In addition, the system has improved tyre life by 40 per cent by reducing sudden acceleration and abrupt steering through its automation controls.