BHP Launches Unmanned Automated Truck Equipment

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | November 1, 2012 6:10 PM EST

It won't be long enough when global miner BHP Billiton Ltd. eventually gets rid of most of its human workforce with the initial launch of its unmanned fleet of automated dump-trucks.

The fleet of robot trucks, initially comprised of 12 to 15 Caterpillar trucks, will be utilized at its newest Jimblebar mine in the Pilbara region from late 2013, operated from a remote operations centre situated in Perth.

Moreover, BHP has plans to eventually go truckless at future operations.

"The real goal is to get the productivity and the cost improvements these technologies can offer," Marcus Randolph, BHP iron ore and coal chief, told The Australian.

''The technology has shifted ... We have got to a point where we have sizers and crushers of substantial size that you can move in a day or two,'' he added.

The BHP iron ore and coal chief likewise noted its mines would operate much more efficiently if the traditional dump-trucks are altogether removed.

''When you run a truck, it takes 10 to 11 employees for every truck,'' he said. ''It takes 4½ to five to run it, all the crews that do the maintenance on it, all the camp people that do the camp cleaning and cooking and everything else.

''If you go autonomous you get rid of half of those. If you go truckless you get rid of all of them. You do this at a time when you see increasing diesel prices, carbon taxes, a number of reasons why getting rid of trucks or using fewer trucks is desirable.''

Operating autonomous trucks and trains lead to lower error rates, better productivity and reduced costs of manpower, said Mr Randolph.

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