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Fortescue autonomous Caterpillar truck program gears up at Cloudbreak

Fortescue Metals implementing autonomous Caterpillar haulage fleet at Cloudbreak, Pilbara, WA

Fortescue Metals is on track to becoming the first iron ore operation in the world with a fully autonomous haulage fleet. The first Caterpillar 789D model trucks fitted with Autonomous Haulage Technology (AHS) are now in operation at Cloudbreak in the Pilbara, WA.

Back in 2012 Fortescue was the first company in the world to deploy Cat autonomous haulage on a commercial scale and now the planned roll out of 38 autonomous trucks at Cloudbreak has commenced. The conversion of Fortescue’s fleet to autonomy across all its mine sites in the Pilbara will see 175 trucks fitted with AHS by mid-2020. 

Fortescue's fleet of autonomous trucks has safely travelled over 28 million kilometres and has moved over 860 million tonnes of material, delivering a 30% improvement in productivity.

In a global first, Fortescue retrofitted Cat Command for hauling, part of Caterpillar's MineStar technology, on Komatsu 930E haul trucks at Christmas Creek. The 930Es have been operating alongside the Cat 789Ds since November 2018, demonstrating the Company's capability to manage and operate the first multi-class truck size autonomous haulage site in the industry.

Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, commented: “Currently, Fortescue's pioneering AHS deployment is the largest mining technology program in the industry. Our approach to autonomy is to be open and transparent with our plans and to work closely with our team members to offer opportunities for re-training and re-deployment. 

“Around 3000 Fortescue team members have been trained to work with autonomous haulage, including over 200 people trained as Mine Controllers and AHS system professionals. This ensures Fortescue remains transformational and leads to higher skilled workers and jobs.”

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The rollout of AHS at Cloudbreak also required the transfer of 160 pieces of machinery to the Cat MineStar Command remote operations server. Cloudbreak is now the first remote mining operation in the world to use the Cat MineStar Command system in production mode. 

“Our remote operations centre located in Perth is a critical part of our integrated supply chain and key to increasing productivity and efficiency across our operations,” Ms Gaines said. 

Denise Johnson, Group President for Caterpillar’s Resource Industries, added: “Caterpillar and Fortescue have a history of industry-leading collaboration in the area of autonomy and automation. Cloudbreak takes this relationship to the next level and demonstrates another great example of Fortescue’s commitment to safety, site productivity and sustainable mining.”

Fortescue’s Cloudbreak mine site is also home to the 5km relocatable conveyor which includes two semi-mobile primary crushing stations and feeds directly into the Cloudbreak ore processing facility (OPF). Another example of Fortescue’s innovative operations, the infrastructure can be positioned approximate to pits and relocated, extended or shortened once an area is mined. Within two weeks of operation, the conveyor was at full capacity, carrying 5000tph of ore at approximately 25km/ph. The conveyor has replaced the equivalent of 12 manned trucks.   

“Together with the eleven autonomous drills currently operating across sites and the relocatable conveyor at Cloudbreak, our autonomous operations continue to deliver significant benefits to the business,” Ms Gaines said. 

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