Giant Robotic Mining Trucks reduce staff from 10 to 5 per truck

IBTimes – Mining giant BHP will pilot test the use of robot trucks at ts Jimblebar iron ore mine in Pilbara. The company will use by late 2013 between 12 and 15 automated Caterpillar trucks, BHP head of Iron Ore and Coal Marcus Randolph disclosed.

By trying the robot trucks, BHP would follow rival Rio Tinto which had pioneered in the area of automated trucks. Rio has 10 driverless trucks running at its Junction South East mine in Pilbara. Rio said it plans to expand its Komatsu trucks fleet to 150 over the next four years as well as put in place driverless trains.

Despite the high cost of such equipment, the expenses are worth it because of the robot truck’s lower rate of error, improved productivity and lesser manpower cost. Mr Randolph estimated that about 10 employees are needed by miners for every manual truck they operate, but the number could be halved by tapping technology.

He said the cost-cutting measures could help miners’ finances at a time that diesel prices are going up and the industry has to input in their costs the carbon and mining taxes.

Robot trucks are now used in mines on soft grounds that do not require blasting. Mr Randolph said the automated trucks could also be adapted in mines that need blasting.

However, Mr Randolph said BHP is going one step ahead of Rio by buying trucks with crushing and processing capability which could operate near the mineral source, rather than raw minerals being transported by the robot trucks to a processing site.

Seekingalpha – Rail-Veyor Technologies Global had unveiled a robotic train designed to assist mining companies in their quest to unearth more metals and stones. The Rail Veyor train was used by vale in Sudbury, Ontario. Vale (VALE) spent almost $50 million to install these tram-like robotic vehicles. Datong Coal Mining Group installed four palletizing robots.

The Chinese coal mining company took this step in order to reduce hazardous working conditions for its workers. Coal mining is one of the most dangerous professions in the mining world. AngloGold Ashanti (AU) had once discussed using robotic technology too, in order to improve the working conditions of its workers.

Mining equipment giant Caterpillar’s robotic trucks cost over $5 million each. A Caterpillar 797B truck can carry more than 300 tonnes of material per load.

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