Autonomous trucks launched by Vale do Brasil at its largest Carajás iron mine

Brazilian miner Vale SA said on Thursday that it began using autonomous trucks for the first time at its Carajás complex, its largest iron ore mining operation, while continuing to expand its use of driverless technology.

Vale hopes to increase productivity and safety by using trucks to transport iron ore, said Pedro Bemfica, the executive who runs the autonomous technology program.

The miner’s six autonomous vehicles in Carajás are nearly twice as tall and more than three times as wide as conventional trucks and capable of holding 320 tonnes of iron ore.

The giants will operate alongside their fleet of around 120 normal offroad vehicles in Carajás, which is located in the state of Pará, in northern Amazonas. The company plans to add four more autonomous trucks by the end of the year.

The company’s forecast is that the trucks, which operate constantly and at higher speeds, will reduce fuel consumption by around 5% and will help Vale’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Wear-related costs should also be lower, with less expense for lubricants and tires.

“The main objective is really to bring security,” said Bemfica. “We launched this technology in trucks with the objective of removing people from the inherent risk”.

The company’s entire fleet of 13 offroad vehicles at the Brucutu mine in southeastern Minas Gerais is autonomous and there hasn’t been a single accident since the technology was first introduced there in 2016, he said.

The executive said the company plans to invest US$64 million (about INR 470 crores) in expanding its autonomous truck fleet to 37 units in Carajás, although he has not given a clear deadline for when this would be completed.

Vale also has four autonomous drilling rigs in Carajás and plans to add another three by the end of the year, said Bemfica.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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