Volvo Trucks announced today an agreement with Norway’s Brønnøy Kalk AS, a limestone mining operation, that provides a commercial autonomous system to deliver limestone via self-driving haulers from an open pit to a nearby port.
Six autonomous Volvo FH trucks deliver the limestone over a five-kilometer stretch through tunnels between the mine and a crusher, the companies said in a statement. Successful tests of the system have been carried out, and will continue through the end of the year, with a goal of being fully operational by the end of 2019.
Agreement around transport, not truck purchase
Volvo Trucks said this agreement follows other successful automation projects in mining, sugar cane harvesting, and trash collection.
In this case, however, instead of buying the autonomous trucks, Brønnøy Kalk is buying a transport solution – specifically the transport of the limestone between the two locations. The agreement has the customer buying the service, paying per ton delivered, Volvo Trucks said.
“This is an important step for us,” said Raymond Langfjord, managing director of the mine. “The competition in the industry is tough. We are continuously looking to increase our efficiency and productivity long-term, and we have a clear vision of taking advantage of new opportunities in technology and digital solutions.”
“We were searching for a reliable and innovative partner that shares our focus on sustainability and safety,” he added. “Going autonomous will greatly increase our competitiveness in a tough global market.”
“It is exciting to reach this point where we introduce autonomous solutions,” said Sasko Cuklev, director of autonomous solutions at Volvo Trucks. “By working in a confined area on a predetermined route, we can find out how to get the best out of the solution and tailor it according to specific customer needs.”
The market for autonomous vehicles for mining is expected to achieve $5 billion by 2028, according to a June 2018 report by research firm IDTechEx. Improvements in safety, productivity, and reduced maintenance costs are helping to drive the market. Leaders in self-driving haulers include Komatsu, Caterpillar, and Hitachi.
“The mining industry is indeed on the cusp of immense change. Historic strategies focused on maximizing production volumes during boom cycles in mining saw the establishment of process inefficiencies,” IDTechEx stated. “The industry is embracing innovation as demonstrated in growth of other emerging technology segments, [including] further deployment of autonomous technologies across the industry.”
- Equipment manufacturer Komatsu last week claimed its FrontRunner Autonomous Haulage System achieved the “unprecedented milestone” of delivering more than 2 billion tons of surface material autonomously.
- Last month, ASI Mining secured an investment from Epiroc to scale its autonomous mining platform.
- In August, Codelco, the National Copper Corporation of Chile, one of the world’s largest copper producers, awarded a $50 million contract to Rockwell Automation to automate systems for the Chuquicamata underground “super cave” mine in Chile.
- In June, ASI Mining started work on a project with Barrick Gold Corporation to retrofit and automate a fleet of self-driving haulers at the Arturo Joint Venture operation in Nevada.
- The Rio Tinto mining group in Australia operated an autonomous train that hauled more than 28,000 metric tons of iron ore across the Australian desert, approximately 280 kilometers.