BHP Billiton extends driverless truck trial

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BHP Billiton extends driverless truck trial

Six more vehicles to join operations.

Mining giant BHP Billiton will expand its trial of autonomous trucks to a second iron ore mine site in Western Australia’s Pilbara region this year.

BHP Billiton has been trialling six Caterpillar 793F driverless trucks since the middle of last year.

The company’s president of iron ore Jimmy Wilson late last week announced six new trucks would operate on a second circuit at the company’s newest iron ore mine, Jimblebar.

The trucks will dump ore at the neighbouring Wheelarra pits from mid-2014, in an effort to test the most efficient and safe methods of hauling iron ore.

"The use of autonomous haul trucks has the potential to introduce safety benefits by removing people from potentially hazardous environments; increasing the predictability and productivity of haulage operations, providing new employment and training opportunities for our people and reducing the labour intensity of future mining operations,” said a BHP spokesperson in a statement.

BHP’s $3.4 billion Jimblebar project is expected to ship 35 million tonnes of iron ore every year by the end of 2015.

The company first signalled its intention to deploy a number of automated trucks at Jimblebar in late 2012.

Earlier this month, fellow miner Rio Tinto revealed an expansion of its own driverless truck fleet, boosting the number of vehicles to 53 across four of its mine sites.

It expects to eventually operate 150 Komatsu driverless trucks, which it anticipates will further improve haul cycle times, tyre life, fuel usage and maintenance costs. 

Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh last week said the fleet had shifted more than 150 million tonnes of material, compared to 100 million tonnes transported during the equivalent period the year prior.

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