Vale to fully automate vehicle fleet at iron ore mine in Brazil

Vale has revealed plans to operate its Brucutu iron ore mine in Brazil with a fully autonomous fleet of vehicles next year, following a successful trial of driverless technology.

The world’s largest iron ore miner conducted a US$62 million trial which involved the deployment of seven Caterpillar 793F CMD fully-autonomous trucks at the mine for a month, after six years of research and development.

During the trial, the site saw a 26% increase in the volume of ore transported, results that the company’s ferrous planning and development director Lúcio Cavalli called ‘promising’.

“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”, said Cavalli.

The Brazilian firm also hopes that full automation of the vehicle fleet will improve safety at the operation. The technology enables trucks to detect and avoid nearby obstacles ranging from large rocks and vehicles to individual humans.

Vale will add another six Caterpillar vehicles to the site to make transport at the mine fully autonomous. The company estimates that this will reduce fuel consumption and maintenance costs by 10% each, while reducing wear on off-road truck tyres by 25%.

The Brucutu mine in Minas Gerais currently employs around 1,700 people and is the second-largest mine in Brazil, behind the Carajás iron ore mine in Pará.