Komatsu strikes BHP deal for 41 South Flank autonomous trucks

Image: Komatsu.

Komatsu will deploy 41 automation-ready Komatsu 930E-5 ultra-class haul trucks at BHP’s South Flank iron ore project in the Pilbara, Western Australia from next month.

BHP, which has historically worked with Caterpillar on its Pilbara autonomous projects, approved the South Flank project in June last year with plans for site-wide automation.

Komatsu expects to employ local Western Australian workers to support the needs of the unprecedented new-model South Flank fleet, including technicians, apprentices, mechanics and boiler maker welders.

The trucks will add to the 250 autonomous haulage system (AHS) machines that Komatsu has already deployed and the 180 operating globally across three continents at nine mine sites.

Komatsu Australia chief executive and managing director, Sean Taylor, said people were the central philosophy at the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

“…it’s this people-first approach to autonomous technology that underpins our relationship with BHP,” Taylor said.

“Komatsu focuses on autonomous technology job creation, with a focus on safety, diversity, upskilling and an innovative flexible work force that marries our people’s needs with business goals. This is our blueprint for the future.”

South Flank is being developed to replace production from BHP’s 80 million tonne a year Yandi mine, which is nearing the end of its economic life.

The project is expanding BHP’s existing infrastructure at Mining Area C, with construction of an 80 million tonne a year crushing and screening plant, an overland conveyor system, stockyard and train loading facilities, procurement of the new mining fleet and substantial mine development and pre-strip work.

While BHP has chosen Komatsu for its autonomous trucks at South Flank, Rio Tinto selected Caterpillar for its next major Pilbara iron ore project, Koodaideri.

Caterpillar is supplying 20 autonomous 793F trucks and four autonomous blast drills, in addition to automation technologies and enterprise systems, at Koodaideri.

Both Komatsu and Caterpillar have been leaders in the deployment of autonomous mining equipment in the Pilbara and globally.

Komatsu has established its presence with the FrontRunner AHS brand. The OEM also has the first autonomous truck qualified to operate on private long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband technology in commercial operations.

Komatsu Australia executive general manager – mining, Leo Kaloglou, said the operation of FrontRunner AHS technology had been tested across three different commodities in three of the harshest and most extreme environments in the world.

“With over two billion tonnes of material moved autonomously – more than all other commercial mining autonomous haulage systems combined – with zero resulting injuries,” Kaloglou said.

The OEM reinforced its commitment to autonomous technology by launching a Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Haulage Systems in the United States in April this year.

Komatsu Australia executive general manager – people and strategy, Colin Shaw, said the company invested time and resources into ensuring forward thinking qualifications were available for its workforce of the future.

“Qualifications relating to; automation, technology, operations and leadership to name a few,” Shaw said.

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