Engineering & Mining Journal

NOV 2018

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Page 54 of 83

AUTONOMOUS HAULAGE SYSTEMS NOVEMBER 2018 • E&MJ 53 Throughout the testing period, Komat- su began field validation in the early 2000s before the first commercial de- ployment with Codelco in Chile in 2007. In 2008, another system was launched with Rio Tinto at a Western Australia iron ore mining operation. "Using those two deployments, we began to learn more about the systems," Yureskes said. "That's when more specif- ic application development began, which led to the first North American deploy- ment with Suncor Energy in 2016." Similar to traditional open-pit mines, the foundation of a strong autonomous platform is the mine plan. The inputs and the production requirements are the basis for the system design. One of the biggest advantages for Komatsu is the Dispatch FMS and integrating it with its FrontRun- ner system to issue assignments to the trucks through a central control unit. "One of the misconceptions about au- tonomous mining is that it's a relatively simple bolt-on remote-control system," Yureskes said. "That's not the case. The true benefit of the system is the integra- tion of all these systems together." Different Levels of Autonomy When Yureskes talked about autonomy, he explained that there is a spectrum of technologies that range from manned operations to complete artificial intel- ligence. "Right now, we fall right in the middle of this spectrum as far as trucks operating without drivers," Yureskes said. "Not only do we offer multiple solutions for autonomous technologies, some of those will be integrated into mine sites based on the needs of that mine site — a customized solution." The Komatsu AHS has five compo- nents: the autonomous haul trucks, the loading equipment, equipped manned vehicles, FrontRunner central control, and the wireless communications network. Act- ing as the brains of the operation, Front- Runner issues assignments and acts as a supervisory system for the entire operation. The benefits of this system are im- proved safety, precision and repeatability, and efficiency. All of which will drive pro- ductivity increases and help keep costs low. "The precision, as in where the ma- terials are placed, limits re-handle and improves haulage cycle times," Yureskes said. "The performance is repeatable and predictable, which keeps mine planning and budgeting consistent and improves the overall efficiency at the mine site." He also cited several possible ancil- lary benefits depending on the operation, such as lower fuel consumption, increased tire life and reduced maintenance costs. These result from the truck running within the design envelope with no human vari- ability as far as how the truck is operated. "Some people like to talk about cost savings related to fewer operators, but we would rather talk about opening the value window by raising the productivity and improving the efficiency while at the same time lowering costs," Yureskes said. The FrontRunner system has a lot of redundancy built into it to assist with safety. The trucks, for example com- municate using auto interaction, which helps them navigate intersections as well as dump and load locations. Permission lines monitor speed while interacting with other haul trucks. It has inherent tech- nology to allow the equipment to interact with each other. The obstacle detection system stops the truck when it detects something in its path. An emergency stop button allows anybody to stop the system if it gets out of control. Implementing the System The FrontRunner system has a basic set of requirements. The autonomous equip- ment needs to be segregated from the manned equipment with proper signage and barricades. Personnel need to be properly trained to understand the system and how to get the most out of it. A central operator must monitor all the equipment and communicate with everyone. A Pit Pa- troller roves around the mining area mon- itoring the conditions, including the haul roads and the load and dump zones. The system needs to be secure with consistent access to GPS and reliable communica- tions. Safety protocols must be followed. Autonomous mining will not magi- cally make a poorly designed mine more efficient. "When you automate junk, you get automatic junk," Yureskes said. "There are specific mine design qualities that Komatsu would like to see, such as simple fixed courses. More than point A to point B, the system needs clearly de- fined destinations and instructions — one where the system requires less interaction with central control. That way the trucks can operate more effectively." Intersection planning becomes vital. T intersections and areas where the auton- omous haul trucks interact regularly with other manned vehicles creates a hassle. Designing those situations out of the mine plan allows the system to run more effectively. "Ideally, we want to see wide roads and larger dumping and loading areas," Yureskes said. "Well-maintained haul roads are key and we want to min- imize manned vehicle interactions, such as bulldozer, graders, pickups, etc." Successful implementation depends on acceptance and the knowledge of the personnel operating the system. The Pit Patroller needs to consistently commu- Since its inception 30 years ago, autonomous haulage has consistently advanced with technology.

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