Mineral Resources (MinRes) has announced that its Onslow Iron project will soon be home to the first convoy of Kenworth C509 prime movers featuring autonomous technology.

The prime movers have arrived in the Pilbara and were transported via drop-deck trailers, with the trip from Perth to Onslow spanning more than 1,280km and taking two and half days.

MinRes said that the vehicles will be based at its Truck Maintenance Facility near Onslow while they undertake trials and verification before commencing autonomous operations.

MinRes’ Director of Technology and Innovation, David Geraghty, said that their arrival marks an exciting milestone for the project, with autonomous road trains set to become a game changer in the industry.

“The prime movers are being progressively fitted out with autonomous technology by autonomy specialist Hexagon. It’s fantastic to see the first batch arrive in Onslow in preparation for the first ore in mid-2024.

“They will initially commence as manned operations, with trials and verifications with safety drivers to occur later in the year before we transition to autonomous operations.”

The single-engine road trains are the biggest in the world and can each haul 330t of iron ore.

Autonomous road trains will travel on a 150km dedicated and fenced haul road running from Ken’s Bore mine site to the MinRes Transhipping Terminal at the Port of Ashburton.

MinRes’ Project Manager, Marcus Kenny, said that the road trains would enhance road safety by eliminating interactions with public vehicles.

“The haul road is separate to public roads, with tunnels under North West Coastal Highway and Onslow Road, and fenced to keep stock and wild animals off the road.

“Autonomy in mining isn’t about replacing people – it’s about taking them out of dangerous situations and employing their skills elsewhere.”

The full fleet of 150 trucks will be fitted with autonomous technology at a rate of around ten each month.

A range of Western Australian-based jobs will be created to support autonomous haulage operations including automation specialists, dispatch and logistic offices, mechanics and auto electricians.

Featured image: Mineral Resources’ new prime movers being transported to the Pilbara. Image credit: Mineral Resources.


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