Caterpillar and its Australian dealer, WesTrac, have signed a memorandum of understanding with Fortescue Metals Group to implement an autonomous mine haulage solution at FMG's new Solomon iron ore development in Pilbara in Western Australia. This will be the first large commercial installation of Caterpillar's autonomous trucks anywhere in the world.
The deal, which is focused on boosting productivity and performance, will comprise several elements, including the full Cat MineStar System technology suite and an initial fleet of 12 Command autonomous 793F haul trucks. These will be installed in the September and December quarters of 2012. The companies anticipate that Solomon will have a total of 45 autonomous trucks by 2015.
Mr Chris Curfman VP of Caterpillar Global Mining said that "By working closely with mining customers, we are able to tailor a solution to their specific business needs using Caterpillar's broad range of products, technology and services. This collaboration will also positively impact sustainability at Solomon mine through reduced environmental footprint and machine efficiencies."
Though still relatively new, FMG has quickly established itself as one of the world’s largest producers and traders of iron ore. The company, which was formed in 2003, owns approximately 87,000 square kilometers of Pilbara tenements.
FMG's first mine site, Cloudbreak, began production in May 2008, and Christmas Creek came on line in April 2009. Since 2006, FMG has expanded its exploration westwards. The Solomon area, which is about 70 kilometers north of Tom Price, has been chosen as the next area for development.
Consultant Coffey Mining prepared a reserve estimate for the project earlier this year, based on FMG's own resource estimate for the deposits of Kings and Firetail.
The probable reserve estimate totaled 716.3 million tonnes at an average grade of 56.3% Fe, 7.66% SiO2, 2.93% Al2O3 and 0.073% P.
Mining was forecast to support iron ore production of 60 million tonnes per annum, comprising 40 million tonnes channel iron deposit fines and 20 million tonnes Brockman fines, for a decade.
Mr Neville Power COO of FMG said that "Innovation is at the heart of Fortescue's values. It is how we started this business through different exploration and mining practices, and it will be critical in how we implement our extensive growth aspirations. One of the key growth challenges we face is around availability of people and the need to best utilize this valuable resource. As such, it is incumbent upon us to look at new ways of doing things. The expected roll out is more than just a trial. It is the unique capabilities that the three parties bring to this agreement that will deliver the world’s leading autonomous mining solution at Solomon."
Caterpillar and WesTrac will work together to provide product and technology implementation, consulting and management services to Solomon mine, as well as operating the complete autonomous system once it is up and running. WesTrac will also be responsible for supporting the Caterpillar mining fleet at Solomon with machine and technology technicians and support personnel.
Mr Jim Walker CEO of WesTrac Group said that "By marrying our Cat product expertise with these ‘building block’ technologies, we are well positioned with Caterpillar to provide Solomon mine with a turnkey autonomous mining solution."