Autonomous 425 tonne roadtrains announced for Pilbara

An ambitious plan to debut driverless triple roadtrains is underway in Western Australia where vehicles with a gross combination mass of 425 tonnes will operate as part of convoy involving up to five prime movers.

The scheme is the brainchild of mining service company Mineral Resources (MRL) who announced a new partnership with autonomous technology specialist, Hexagon, to unlock what it referred to as stranded tonnes in the Pilbara as part of a new supply chain solution.

Renowned for providing innovative and low-cost solutions across the mining infrastructure, MRL plans for the autonomous roadtrains to form an essential part of the cost-efficient supply chain it has conceived and developed for the Ashburton Hub Iron Ore Project.

To support the development of the 30Mtpa Ashburton Hub, MRL said it would operate a fleet of 425 tonne GCM, triple trailer roadtrains operating across multiple convoys, with each roadtrain convoy consisting of up to five prime mover trucks, with three trailers each, hauling the ore from the mine-site to the Port of Ashburton.

The autonomous roadtrain solution integrates Hexagon’s drive-by-wire technology with an autonomous management system to orchestrate vehicle movement.

A successful pilot project is underway at Yilgarn using 385 tonne GCM triple trailer roadtrains, which have been tailored for the specific economic constraints of iron ore and other bulk commodities.

During the next two years, the testing will continue, ramping up to 425 tonne GCM in time for the Ashburton Hub Project.

An autonomous roadtrain configuration of this scale is a world-first.

In a statement put out by the company, Mineral Resources said its approach personified a commitment to continuous improvement and innovation.

“We will initially adopt the technology for our own operations, with a view to offering the solution to our large Tier One customer base, further growing MRL’s mining services business,” it said in the statement.

MRL Chief Executive – Mining Services, Mike Grey said in recent years the company had implemented a number of new technologies which have enhanced the safety and operational efficiency of its long distance roadtrain haulage fleet and in doing so had reduced the risks of driver fatigue and increasing fleet availability.

“The autonomous roadtrains will take us to the next level again,” he said.

“They provide a safe, cost-efficient solution for hauling ore, which is key to unlocking stranded tonnes in the Pilbara,” said Grey.

“Being part of the MRL Group, our Mining Services division is in a really good position to trial all of our new technologies on our own mine sites prior to offering additional services to our customers.

“Our autonomous roadtrains, combined with our other innovations, are all part of our growth strategy to expand our capability to provide full pit-to-ship, low-cost infrastructure solutions.”

In other news, Strandline Resources is executing a longterm haulage and logistics services agreement with Qube Bulk which involves running triple roadtrains 24/7.

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