The autonomous trucks of Komatsu have 10 years of operative experience in global big mining. The decade has a special flavor for Chile, world’s main supplier of copper, as it was in the Gabriela Mistral Division of Codelco, in the Antofagasta region, where its use started in January of 2008.
In the present, more than 100 trucks with the Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) operate in Australia, North America and South America. In Chile, they are present in Gabriela Mistral, with 18 units of the model 930E4, with a highly positive balance in terms of safety, productivity, environmental resistance and flexibility of the system in a variety of mining sectors.
“We are sure that the autonomous technology is the path to the future. Because of this, we are strongly investing to speed up its use and expand it to support and loading equipment, drills and subterraneous equipment”, indicated Carlos Soto, General Manager of Komatsu Chile, only company that today has AHS trucks in our country.
Information, safety and productivity
The AHS trucks have carried more than 1.5 billion tons (accumulative) of material transported in Chile, Canada and Australia, country where Komatsu is present in four mines in the Pilbara region, in the west of the island.
The operation of AHS is controlled from an operation room, which in the case of Gabriela Mistral is in the same site, but it could perfectly be in Calama, as well as in Santiago, at more than 1,500 Km away. For the transport operation, a computer system developed by Komatsu is used, which has different layers of navigation and, along with a modern communications network, allows the trucks to move and transport load independently and interact among autonomous trucks, as well as with the rest of manned vehicles.
Between the site and the control center there is an online connection to the equipment that provides data about the condition of the machine and its components, use, position, among other indicators. “This kind of information allows us higher precision in the diagnosis process. This way we can anticipate failures, identify opportunities of improvement in productivity for our customers, and have more reliable equipment with higher availability”, explains Carlos Soto.
In the safety area, AHS is significantly more optimal than the conventional activities, where even a small detail in the driving of a truck may cause a serious accident. In the case of the productivity, the autonomous equipment operates 24 hours a day non-stop and therefore, it has a lower cost per ton.
“Our customers in different parts of the world have reduced their unitary costs of loading and transport up to 15%, as compared with the traditional transport methods. Besides, the optimized automated controls of the AHS reduce the sudden acceleration and the abrupt change, which results in an improvement of up to 60% in the lifespan of the tires, as compared with conventional operations”, states the Komatsu manager, who adds that this efficiency also allows the reduction of environmental footprint and impact.
The future in autonomous equipment
In order to extend the proven benefits of the autonomous technology towards operations with manned haulage fleets, Komatsu successfully carried out and completed tests of the AHS adaptation equipment. The modernization kit, assembled in a standard electric 830 truck, allowed changing the unit to an autonomous truck. Given the good results, Komatsu received at the beginning of the year a request from Rio Tinto of 29 AHS update kits, which will be installed in the standard units that currently operate in the mine Brockman 4 of Rio Tinto in Australia.
Besides expanding the AHS adaptation kit to add other standard truck models with electrical transmission, Komatsu is evaluating to improve the functions of AHS mixed operation that will allow that the manned haulage trucks of any brand interact safely with the AHS trucks of Komatsu in an operation of combined fleet. “We have committed to provide the mining customers with solutions that satisfy the increasing demand of a gradual transition to a completely automated mine”, points Soto.