Just nine months after meeting its 4-billion-tonne (4.4-billion ton) goal, Caterpillar has confirmed it has now reached 5 billion tons (5.5 billion tons) of material hauled autonomously – a first in the mining industry to achieve such a milestone in less than a decade.
The OEM said that its trucks equipped with Cat MineStar Command for hauling, with this goal now met, are on pace to eclipse previous record totals of materials hauled in a calendar year, projected to be more than 1.4 billion tonnes (1.57 billion tons) in 2022.
There are over 550 mining trucks equipped with the system currently, and the machines are operating on three continents.
“Over the last nine years, trucks equipped with Command for hauling have journeyed nearly the average distance between the Earth and Mars with zero loss-time injuries,” the company said.
Denise Johnson, group president of Caterpillar Resource Industries, added that it has certainly come a long way from placing its first fleets of autonomous trucks in Western Australia at FMG Solomon and BHP Jimblebar in 2013.
“Since that time, trucks using Command for hauling have safely traveled nearly 200 million kilometers (124.3 million miles), more than twice the experience in autonomous operations of any automobile manufacturer.”
In fact, she said, Caterpillar has grown the number of autonomous trucks in operation by 40% in the past two years.
“We believe that automation is one of many keys to implement technology that unlocks the value miners need when it comes to the energy transition toward more sustainable operations,” Johnson added.
Marc Cameron, vice president of Caterpillar Resource Industries, said that the new Cat 798 AC electric drive trucks replacing BHP’s entire haul truck fleet at the Escondida mine will feature technologies that advance the site’s key initiatives, including autonomy and decarbonization.
“The agreement allows Escondida | BHP to accelerate the implementation of its autonomy plans by transitioning the fleet with autonomous haulage system (AHS) technology,” Cameron said.
Caterpillar now has full site autonomous haulage solutions working with 13 customers at 23 different locations, and they are working in oil sands, copper, gold, coal, lithium and phosphate.
Spanning the 190- to 370-tonne (210- to 410-ton) class sizes, the Cat 789D, 793D, 793F, 797F, and electric drive 794 AC and 798 AC mining trucks are capable of fully autonomous operation. Retrofit kits allow miners to expand Command for hauling to existing Cat mining trucks.
In 2023, we will expand Command for hauling to the 139-tonne (153-ton) truck class at ioneer Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron mine.
“This is the first greenfield project in North America to use an AHS,” said Sean McGinnis, vice president and general manager for Cat Mining. “We are now seeing a shift toward autonomy requested on new Cat trucks. Whereas large mines with fleet sizes of more than 70 trucks were the early adopters of the technology, we are seeing economic viability for autonomy at smaller mines with a fleet of less than 15 trucks.”