Vale shifting to autonomous haul trucks at Brazil mine

Date: Sep 12, 2018

Huge haul trucks, with a capacity of 240 tons, circulate on the roads of a large mining area without operators in the cabins. Controlled only by computer systems, GPS, radars and artificial intelligence, the vehicles move efficiently between the mining front and the unloading area. What sounds like a futuristic film is the reality that begins to appear in the Brucutu mine owned by Vale in Minas Gerais.

Self-propelled truck with capacity for 240 tons

The result of six years of research and testing, seven trucks used to transport iron ore from the mining front to the processing plant began to be part of the daily operations alongside six other traditionally operated vehicles. When the entire fleet is replaced by trucks with the new technology, in early 2019, Brucutu will be the first mine to operate autonomously in Brazil.

Compared to the conventional transportation model, the autonomous operations system has a higher productivity. The productivity of haul trucks has significant gains. Autonomous operation also increases the life of the equipment, leads to less wear of parts and reduced maintenance costs.

Based on technological market data, Vale expects to obtain an increase of around 15% in the equipments lifespan. Fuel consumption and maintenance costs are expected to decrease 10% and the average speed of trucks are expected to increase.

The autonomous operation also brings relevant environmental benefits. The economy of fuel used in the machines results in lower volume of CO2 and particulate emissions.

“The use of this type of technology is increasing in the world market, not only in the mining area. The use of autonomous equipment will bring gains in productivity and competitiveness for Vale and the Brazilian industry”, says Lúcio Cavalli, Ferrous Planning and Development Director.

Employee monitors the operation of autonomous trucks

New opportunities

People continue to play an important role in autonomous operation. The teams that supervise the entire process can be comfortably installed kilometers away from the operations.

Brucutu’s equipment operators were moved to other functions in the mine itself or other Vale units in the region. Part of the team was used in the management and control of autonomous equipment, after having undergone training courses, which can last up to two years.

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