Caterpillar recently celebrated a couple of milestones relating to the mining industry.
First, the company says that trucks equipped with Cat MineStar Command for autonomous hauling have moved more than 5.5 billion tons of materials in less than a decade. Cat’s autonomous trucks are on pace to eclipse previous record totals of material hauled in a calendar year, projected to be more than 1.57 billion tons in 2022.
Also related to the mining industry, Caterpillar executives and motor grader production team members recently gathered in Decatur, Illinois, to celebrate the production and sale of the 1,000th Cat 24 motor grader. The milestone machine, destined for Perth, Australia, having been sold by Cat dealer WesTrac Pty Ltd, to Rio Tinto Pilbara Operations, includes a special 1,000th unit commemorative plate.
Hauling it out
Since the first fleets of Cat’s autonomous trucks were placed in Western Australia at FMG Solomon and BHP Jimblebar nine years ago, Cat trucks equipped with Command for hauling have journeyed nearly 124.3 million miles or the average distance between the Earth and Mars with zero loss-time injuries. Currently, more than 550 mining trucks are equipped with Command for hauling and are active across three continents.
“Caterpillar has grown the number of autonomous trucks in operation by 40% in the past two years,” said Denise Johnson, group president of Caterpillar Resource Industries. “We believe that automation is one of many keys to implementing technology that unlocks the value miners need when it comes to the energy transition toward more sustainable operations.”
Through an agreement with Caterpillar, BHP is replacing its entire haul truck fleet with autonomous solutions. Spanning the 210- to 410-ton class sizes, the Cat 789D, 793D, 793F, 797F and electric-drive 794 AC and 798 AC mining trucks are capable of fully autonomous operation.
To date, Caterpillar has 13 customers at 23 different locations to with full-site autonomous haulage solutions. In addition, over the last three years, Cat has won eight of nine greenfield autonomy sites.
The line is slated to expand in 2023 with the addition of Command for hauling to the 153-ton truck class at ioneer Ltd’s Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron mine, the first greenfield project in North America to use an AHS. Also, retrofit kits allow miners to expand Command for hauling to existing Cat mining trucks.
“We are now seeing a shift toward autonomy requested on new Cat trucks.,” said Sean McGinnis, vice president and general manager for Cat Mining. “Whereas, large mines with fleet sizes of more than 70 trucks were the early adopters of the technology, we are seeing economic viability for autonomy at smaller mines with a fleet of fewer than 15 trucks."
The company views the possibility of continuing with autonomy in quarry and aggregates.
1,000th Cat 24 Motor Grader
The Cat 24 motor grader, designed to build and maintain haul roads at mining sites with ultra-class haul trucks, was introduced in 1995. In its third generation, the Cat 24 features more than 30% power, 13% more weight and a longer rebuild life than prior generations.
“The Cat 24 motor grader was and continues to be a game-changer for maintenance efficiency of the wide haul roads necessary for ultra-class trucks,” said Sam Vedhakumar Manoharan, Cat’s vice president of product management, earthmoving. “We thank the many global mining operations and dedicated Cat dealers around the world for their loyalty to the Cat 24 grader.”
Stephen Jones, Rio Tinto Iron Ore's managing director of planning, integration and assets, said the company was honored to receive the commemorative machine, marking the third generation used at Pilbars mining operation.
“For years, we have used Cat 24 Motor Graders to maintain our haul roads for our ultra-class trucks,” Jones said. “The Cat 24 series offers a great combination of power, weight and blade width to support road maintenance coverage for our large mining fleet.”
Cat 24 quick specs
- Engine: Cat C27
- Net power, Tier 4 Final/Stage IV: 535 to 694 hp
- Weight: 136,575 lbs.
- Moldboard width: 24 ft. (28 ft. optional)
- Moldboard height: 40 in.
- Maximum depth of cut: 21.7 in.
- Maximum lift above ground: 16.1 in.