Vale's 100M tons with autonomous trucks
Event marks success and future of autonomous equipment Metal Tech News – July 7, 2021
Last updated 7/13/2021 at 5:19pm
Autonomous haul trucks recently surpassed 100 million tons of material hauled at Vale SA's Brucutu iron mine in Brazil, a milestone that demonstrates the validity, efficiency, and safety of autonomous equipment in the mining industry.
"Certainly the most important benefit from the implementation [of autonomous trucks] is the reduction of people's exposure to risk," said Jefferson Corraide, Vale's executive manager of Brucutu and Água Limpa mines.
What started as a pilot project in 2016, with currently 13 trucks circulating Brucutu and more soon on the way, it has become the first mine in Brazil with 100% autonomous haulage.
Since the start of this project, the autonomous trucks at Brucutu have traveled roughly 1.1 million miles, equivalent to 46 trips around the earth, without any accidents. And, with AI behind the wheel, the carbon dioxide emissions have been estimated to be reduced by 11%, which comes to nearly 4,300 tons of CO2 per year.
"There are many results and lessons learned to be celebrated with the current level of maturity of the autonomous mine," said Corraide. "The mine was made safer both by the embedded technology and by the discipline required to make the process sustainable and fluid. The autonomous operation optimization processes go beyond the truck and encompass the complex as a whole."
With a transport capacity of 240 tons, the trucks are controlled by computer systems, GPS, radar, and artificial intelligence, covering the route between the mining front and unloading area. The result of six years of research and testing.
By moving the operators out of the cabins, stress, fatigue, lapses in perception, and plain human error have been minimized. The teams that oversee the entire process can be comfortably placed miles away from the worksite and vehicles.
The former equipment operators at Brucutu were transferred to other functions at the mine itself or other Vale units in the region. Furthermore, part of the team was used to manage and control the autonomous equipment after becoming trained in their use.
With autonomous vehicles becoming more accessible and prominent in many fields, potentially new opportunities for highly qualified professionals in the technical and engineering areas of automation, robotics and technology will be created.
Preceding the achievement, the world's largest iron ore producer recently invested US$40 million in expanding its autonomous truck line-up, hoping to further reduce costs and accidents.
"The goal is to expand the fleet to 50 trucks by the end of 2024," added Corraide.
Vale currently owns 13 trucks and plans to put into permanent operation 10 more at its Carajás iron mine in Pará state, home to the largest open pit mine in the world.
Similarly, Vale is investing in autonomous iron ore drill rigs, with 11 already in operation at Pará and Minas Geraisand plans to boost the number to 21.