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Mineral Resources (MinRes) has announced a partnership with automation specialist Hexagon to develop an autonomous road train solution for its haulage fleet in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The solution integrates drive-by-wire technology with an autonomous management system to orchestrate vehicle movement in road-train haulage, as part of the Mineral Resources mining services infrastructure supply chain solution.

“In recent years, we have implemented a number of new technologies which have enhanced the safety and operational efficiency of our long-distance road train haulage fleet, reducing the risks of driver fatigue and increasing fleet availability,” Mineral Resources’ Mining Services chief executive officer Mike Grey said.

“The autonomous road trains will take us to the next level again. They provide a safe, cost-efficient solution for hauling ore, which is key to unlocking stranded tonnes in the Pilbara.”

An autonomous road train configuration of this scale is a world-first and reflects MinRes’ approach to continuous improvement and innovation.

MinRes will initially adopt the technology for its own operations, with a view to offering the solution to its large tier-one customer base, further growing its mining services business.

MinRes is renowned for providing innovative and low-cost solutions across the mining infrastructure supply chain, and the autonomous road trains will form an essential part of the Ashburton Hub iron ore project.

Mineral Resources is planning to run a fleet of 425-tonne gross combination mass triple-trailer road trains operating across multiple convoys, with each road train convoy consisting of up to five prime-mover trucks, with three trailers each, hauling the ore from the mine site to the Port of Ashburton.

“Autonomous vehicles are revolutionising the way we work today and into the future, and Hexagon is very proud to be part of this revolution,” Hexagon president and chief executive officer Ola Rollén said.

“Our agreement with MRL further solidifies Hexagon’s commitment to autonomous mobility and fulfilling our customer’s safety and productivity requirements.”

The announcement follows a successful proof-of-concept completed with the specific economic constraints of iron ore and other bulk commodities, where MinRes provided its deep expertise and knowledge in road-train haulage while Hexagon drew upon its proven experience in autonomy.

The automated road-train solution focuses on safety, productivity and sustainability for Mineral Resources operations and will be phased in over the next two years.