Caterpillar and its flagship autonomous operation, the Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) iron ore mine in Western Australia, continue to set records.
FMG recently announced an impressive milestone: 1 billion tonnes (1.1 billion tons) of material moved with the help of the Cat® MineStar™ autonomous haulage technology, Command for hauling. Even more impressive is that the mine’s fleet of autonomous trucks traveled more than 33.5 million kilometers (20.8 million miles) without a single safety incident.
While FMG and Caterpillar are proud of this significant milestone, the results that Command for hauling has delivered are also cause for celebration. Autonomous haulage has delivered a 30% improvement in productivity for the site and Command is helping FMG achieve its goal of leveraging technology and innovation to increase operational efficiency.
Command for hauling
Cat MineStar Command for hauling has forever changed how mining companies move material — allowing them to haul more efficiently with near-continuous operation and move more with fewer people on site.
Command trucks respond to calls to the shovel, move into position, haul to dump points and even report for maintenance — all without an operator on board. Autonomous trucks operate safely around other equipment, light vehicles and personnel. Trucks maintain optimal operating speeds and safe following distances at all times, and mines are able to optimize production thanks to tight truck exchanges and no need for shift changes.
A strong relationship
Caterpillar and FMG have a strong history in autonomous haulage and continue to build on the success of the Command system. In 2012, FMG was the first mine in the world to commercially implement Cat autonomous haulage technology and has since expanded to 137 autonomous trucks now in operation. By mid-2020, FMG expects to have a total of 175 trucks operating autonomously at its Solomon and Chichester Hubs – making Fortescue the first iron ore company in the world to have a fully autonomous haulage operation.
One key contributor to FMG’s rapid expansion of autonomous haulage is the interoperability of the Command for hauling system. Interoperability makes it possible for Cat technologies to be used on any brand of equipment, work on the Cat machines already in the field, and integrate with mines’ existing systems and processes. Because Command can operate on trucks made by other manufacturers, FMG’s existing fleet of Komatsu 930E haul trucks can operate alongside its Cat 789D and 793F trucks.
Beyond the success of the system itself is the collaboration that helps FMG get the full value of the solution. Caterpillar autonomy experts work hand-in-hand with FMG to implement change management procedures and to ensure people and processes are optimized for the use of technology. Caterpillar and Cat dealer WesTrac have experts on site to provide support and training for the FMG team, while a broad technology support team based around the world is available for 24/7 support.
“Caterpillar values the strategic relationship it has developed with Fortescue,” said Jean Savage, Caterpillar Surface Mining & Technology vice president. “The technical collaboration between Fortescue and Caterpillar has contributed to Fortescue’s efficiency gains, increased productivity and most importantly, enhanced safety.”