Fortescue Plans Mining Automation

Submitted by Sharemarket News on 7 July, 2011 - 10:45

Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) and US equipment titan Caterpillar have teamed up to use automation at the miner's proposed Solomon iron ore mine. The two companies signed the agreement yesterday, with the participation of a Caterpillar dealer, WesTrac.

Under the deal, about a dozen autonomous trucks will be unloaded on the Western Australian Pilbara site in the second half of next year, with a target of 45 trucks to mine 120 million tonnes of iron ore by 2015. The driverless trucks would carry 200-tonne payloads each.

Fortescue's introduction of remote technology may eclipse that of competitor Rio Tinto, who started testing automatic trucks in late 2008.

According to Nev Power, who will take over from chief executive Andrew Forrest on July 18, "The expected rollout is more than just a trial."

On top of raising productivity and performance, Solomon's environmental footprint would be reduced and mine safety would improved with the automation equipment, said Caterpillar president Steve Wunning.

Mining equipment cost was not included in Fortescue's $7.85 billion forecast development cost that targeted 155 million tonnes iron ore production per annum from Solomon and Chichester Ranges operations by the middle of 2013.

It was in the 1990s that remotely operated earthmoving trucks first began operating in the mining industry.