Mining, News, Western Australia

120 driverless road trains for the West Pilbara

In a world-first, Mineral Resources (MinRes) will deploy a fleet of 120 fully autonomous triple road trains, which will each carry 330 tonnes of iron ore along a 150km route.

The road trains have been designed and developed for MinRes’ flagship Onslow Iron project in Western Australia.

They are each equipped with an autonomous haulage solution provided by Hexagon AB, will travel a dedicated private haul road from the Ken’s Bore mine site to the Port of Ashburton.

The driverless fleet will be controlled by a team of operators from a central operating centre in Onslow.

MinRes is also currently developing an artificial intelligence-powered monitoring system.

MinRes chief executive, Mining Services, Mike Grey said, “We’re excited to cement our partnership with Hexagon to deliver the world’s first fleet of autonomous road trains, which will be an essential part of Onslow Iron’s safe, efficient and dust-free solution for hauling ore.

“Automation will remove the risk of driver fatigue, lower operating costs and reduce fuel use and emissions. There’s enormous potential for these vehicles to transform mining across the world.”

According to MinRes, the autonomous road trains will provide a cost-effective means to unlock deposits in the West Pilbara that would otherwise remain undeveloped.

Grade separation will ensure there is no interaction between the autonomous road trains operating on the haul road and vehicles using public roads.

Ore will be transported to a 220,000-tonne enclosed, negative pressure storage facility at the port. From there, 20,000-tonne capacity transhippers will move the ore to cape-size carriers 40 kilometres off the coast.

Testing of autonomous road trains has occurred at MinRes’ Yilgarn iron ore operations since late 2021 ahead of the technology’s deployment at Onslow Iron.

The Onslow Iron project will ship about 35 million tonnes of iron ore per year from mid-2024.

Hexagon president and CEO Paolo Guglielmini added, “Today’s agreement with MinRes will ensure that transport activities will be safer, more sustainable, and more productive. I’m excited to see how similar solutions can be applied in other markets such as agriculture and heavy industry.”

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