Newmont’s Boddington gold mine in Western Australia will become the world’s first open pit gold mine with an autonomous truck fleet, following the approval of a $150 million investment into a Caterpillar autonomous haulage system (AHS).
The company expects the investment will extend Boddington’s mine life by at least two years through the improved efficiencies provided by the AHS. This site is already Western Australia’s largest producer of gold, with 709,000 ounces delivered in 2018.
A fleet of autonomous Caterpillar 793F haul trucks will feature rigorous safety controls that reduce worker exposure to potential vehicle interactions, according to Newmont.
It is also implementing a people strategy at the mine that will provide opportunities to reskill and redeploy haul truck drivers to other roles supporting the AHS.
“Not only does Boddington continue to deliver strong performance, our investment in autonomous haul trucks will generate an internal rate of return greater than 35 per cent with a more controlled and efficient haulage operation,” Newmont President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Palmer said.
“We are also uniquely positioned in the gold sector to support effective implementation and operation of the fleet thanks to the technical capabilities and previous experience of leaders in our business.
“Simply put, Boddington will be a safer, more productive world-class gold mine in a top-tier jurisdiction.”
Caterpillar will work with Perth-based Cat dealer WesTrac to manage logistics of the autonomous haul truck delivery and commissioning. The MineStar Command for hauling system is expected to be operational in 2021.
WesTrac will play a key role in implementing technology solutions and plans to leverage its recently announced autonomous technology training facility that is being constructed in Collie.
Caterpillar Group President of Resource Industries Denise Johnson said Command for hauling had shown its ability to enhance safety, optimise production and lower costs at sites around the world.
“The Caterpillar team is eager to demonstrate these positive results in gold mining,” Johnson said.
Newmont also sees potential to replicate the system at its other gold operations.