Autonomous convoys to deliver WA iron ore
Mineral Resources, Hexagon team up on iron ore road trains Metal Tech News - December 8, 2021
Last updated 12/21/2021 at 2:30pm
The economics of mining bulk tonnage commodities such as iron ore often hinge upon the ability to economically deliver millions of tons of product per year to global markets. Typically, trains and ships are the lowest cost options for moving ore at this scale.
If an iron ore deposit is too far away from the ocean and too small to justify the expense of connecting to world markets via rail, then it becomes stranded. Unless, maybe, an autonomous convoy of triple-trailer trucks hauling 425 metric tons of iron ore per trip could offer the bulk tonnage haulage required.
With the expertise offered by Hexagon, a global leader in digital and autonomous technologies, Mineral Resources Ltd. is developing such an autonomous road train to unlock stranded tons of iron ore at its Ashburton Hub mines project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
"Autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing the way we work today and into the future, and Hexagon is very proud to be part of this revolution," said Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén. "Our agreement with MRL further solidifies Hexagon's commitment to autonomous mobility and fulfilling our customer's safety and productivity requirements."
Beyond being an operator of iron and lithium mines, Mineral Resources is a mining services company renowned for providing innovative and low-cost solutions across the mining infrastructure supply chain. This includes the use of road trains to efficiently move bulk tonnage commodities.
"In recent years, we have implemented a number of new technologies which have enhanced the safety and operational efficiency of our long-distance road train haulage fleet, reducing the risks of driver fatigue and increasing fleet availability," said Mike Grey, chief executive of mining services at Mineral Resources. "The autonomous road trains will take us to the next level again."
Through the integration of Hexagon's drive-by-wire technology and autonomous management system to orchestrate vehicle movement, this next level of road trains is to include a convoy of five self-driving trucks, each pulling three trailers loaded with 425 metric tons of iron ore from the Bungaroo South and Kumina mines to the Port of Ashburton.
Starting with tests at motor speedways and then to remote roadways in Western Australia, Mineral Resources has been scaling up this autonomous haulage technology with additional trucks pulling more trailers.
The company has scaled this technology up to a pilot project currently underway that involves a four-truck convoy at its Yilgarn operations capable of hauling 385 metric tons of ore.
The testing of this technology tailored to the economic constraints of iron ore and other bulk commodities will continue over the next two years, ramping up to 425 metric tons per convoy by the time the Ashburton hub mines come online in 2023.
In addition to providing an economical means of delivering iron ore from its mines not connected by rail in Western Australia, this project will also serve as a demonstration of a new service offered to mining customers.
"Being part of the MRL Group, our mining services division is in a really good position to trial all of our new technologies on our own mine sites prior to offering additional services to our customers," said Grey. "Our autonomous road trains, combined with our other innovations, are all part of our growth strategy to expand our capability to provide full pit-to-ship, low-cost infrastructure solutions."