Mining giant Rio Tinto recently signed an agreement with Caterpillar to supply and support mining machines, automation, and enterprise technology systems for the new Koodaideri iron ore mine in Western Australia, likely including non-traditional targets for autonomy—support equipment such as water trucks.
With Western Australia being a hot, dry, and dusty climate, and large mining trucks kicking up even more dust, mine operators often turn to fleets of water trucks to keep the dust down. The large water trucks, based on haulers with 100 to 150 tons of capacity, would be interacting with autonomous mining equipment, so a goal will be not only autonomy, but also software meant to keep those interactions safe.
(Experience a ride in an autonomous mining truck.)
Other support equipment at mines typically include motor graders and light vehicles such as pickup trucks.
Under the agreement, Rio Tinto and Caterpillar will work together in creating an automated mine operation that makes best use of data analytics and integration to enhance safety, optimize production, boost mining machine utilization, and lower costs, the companies said.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said, “We’re pleased to be partnering with Caterpillar and WesTrac, the regional Cat dealer, to help make Koodaideri the most technology-enabled and innovative mine in our Pilbara iron ore network.
“Technology is rapidly changing our mining operations as we harness innovation to make our operations safer, smarter and more productive. This extension of our partnership with Caterpillar and WesTrac represents an exciting step for our business.”
Koodaideri will deliver a new production hub for Rio Tinto’s iron ore business in the Pilbara. Construction work has started, and first production is expected in late 2021. Once complete, the mine will have an annual capacity of 43 million tonnes, underpinning production of the Pilbara Blend, Rio Tinto’s flagship iron ore product.
As mine construction advances, WesTrac will manage logistics of mining machine delivery and commissioning, and will play a key role in implementing technology solutions. “WesTrac is excited to be part of the Koodaideri project and to work with Caterpillar to deliver groundbreaking equipment solutions to support Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future vision,” said Jarvas Croome, WesTrac CEO.
“The Caterpillar team is looking forward to working with Rio Tinto to apply our proven mining equipment and technology and to implement additional MineStar autonomy solutions at Koodaideri—a new mine designed to capitalize on leading-edge technology,” said Denise Johnson, group president Resource Industries, at Caterpillar. “We’re excited to work together to advance Rio Tinto’s mine automation and digitalization program.”