Caterpillar Signs Agreement For Autonomous Mining Solution

Caterpillar Inc. and WesTrac have signed an agreement with Fortescue Metals Group to implement autonomous mining equipment.

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Caterpillar Inc. and Cat Dealer WesTrac have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Fortescue Metals Group based in Perth, Australia to implement an autonomous mining solution that is focused on delivering productivity and performance gains for Fortescue's new Solomon iron ore mine. This solution will comprise a number of elements, including the full Cat MineStar System technology suite and an initial fleet of 12 Command for hauling autonomous 793F trucks to be implemented in third and fourth quarter 2012. At full operational capacity, it is anticipated the Solomon mine will have approximately 45 autonomous trucks by 2015. 

"This agreement confirms and validates Caterpillar's commitment to our customers by producing state-of- the-art solutions that provide a significant step change in mining productivity and safety," says Chris Curfman, Vice President, Caterpillar Global Mining. "By working closely with mining customers, we are able to tailor a solution to their specific business needs using Caterpillar's broad range of products, technology and services. This collaboration will also positively impact sustainability at Fortescue's Solomon mine through reduced environmental footprint and machine efficiencies."  

"Innovation is at the heart of Fortescue's values," says Fortescue's Chief Operating Officer, Neville Power. "It is how we started this business through different exploration and mining practices, and it will be critical in how we implement our extensive growth aspirations. One of the key growth challenges we face is around availability of people and the need to best utilize this valuable resource. As such, it is incumbent upon us to look at new ways of doing things."

"Partnering with the world's leading mining equipment supplier and their most accomplished dealer to develop the automation of our mining operations is a great outcome," Power adds. "The expected roll out is more than just a trial with the plan to get to 12 machines by 2012 and then growing to 45 by 2015. It is the unique capabilities that the three parties bring to this agreement that will deliver the world's leading autonomous mining solution at Solomon."

Caterpillar and WesTrac will work together to implement and operate this autonomous solution for Fortescue. The two organizations together will provide product and technology implementation, consulting and change management services to Solomon mine, as well as operate the complete autonomous system once it is implemented. In addition, WesTrac will be fully responsible for supporting the large Caterpillar mining fleet at Solomon with machine and technology technicians and support personnel.

"For the past 10 years, WesTrac has been a leader in selling, implementing and supporting mining technology products that help mining companies achieve improved productivity and asset utilization. By marrying our deep Cat product expertise with these 'building block' technologies, we are well positioned with Caterpillar to provide Solomon mine with a turn-key autonomous mining solution," says WesTrac Group CEO, Jim Walker.

Caterpillar has been delivering mining technologies and systems for more than 20 years that have improved site safety, machine productivity and equipment utilization. The world's first autonomous truck was demonstrated by Caterpillar in the mid 1990's. At MINExpo 2008, Caterpillar articulated its vision for autonomous mining in the future that includes autonomous drilling, autonomous dozers and autonomous underground mining equipment working with other manned equipment. The implementation of Command for hauling trucks at the Solomon mine is a significant step in executing Cat's strategy to transform how mine sites will operate in the future.