Freeport deploys world-first autonomous rockbreakers from RCT

In a world-first technology project, PT Freeport Indonesia has rolled out a fully autonomous fleet of mobile rockbreakers at its West Papuan […]
Credit: RCT

In a world-first technology project, PT Freeport Indonesia has rolled out a fully autonomous fleet of mobile rockbreakers at its West Papuan mine in partnership with smart technology specialist RCT.

PT Freeport’s industry-leading corporate policies mandate safer mining practices to remove personnel from working in areas of the underground Grasberg block cave (GBC) and Deep Mill Level zone (DMLZ), which are prone to wet muck rushes.

To fulfill this safety-driven mandate, PT Freeport engaged RCT to implement its fully autonomous ControlMaster guidance product across the rockbreaker fleet.

This project is the first time ControlMaster Guidance – which has more than 8 million hours of autonomous operation across load-haul-dump (LHD) production fleets – has been integrated with mobile rockbreakers. The successful rollout of the rockbreaker fleet yet again demonstrates that ControlMaster is a truly interoperable solution and can integrate with any machine make or model.

PT Freeport worked closely with RCT’s dedicated onsite technical team to commission the four mobile rockbreakers and extensively tested the machines in the underground panel cave mines.

The work forms part of PT Freeport’s overall mandate for RCT to automate the mine’s diverse underground ancillary fleet which includes the mobile rockbreakers, Getman Water Carts and Cat clean-up LHD machines. In line with PT Freeport Indonesia’s overall mine development plan, the fully autonomous ancillary fleet will operate in a designated autonomous mining area (AMA) within GBC and DMLZ. Going forward, machine operators will manage the ancillary fleet via ControlMaster automation centres located within the state-of-the-art remote operations room (ROR) on the mine’s surface.

By utilizing the automation centre’s Multi-Fleet Select (MFS) capability, operators can switch control of the mobile rockbreakers, water carts or clean-up loaders in line with changing fleet requirements at short notice. Working from the ROR safeguards machine operators from hazards found at the mine face and enables “hotseating” which significantly reduces shift handover time across fleet operations.

RCT account manager Shane Smith said the technology significantly optimizes mobile rockbreaker fleet operations in addition to safeguarding the machine operators. “The mobile rockbreakers are utilized in the extraction level draw points to clear larger rocks however these draw points are prone to wet muck rushes which represented a significant safety hazard to site personnel.

“Initially, we commissioned the rockbreakers with our ControlMaster tele-remote solution, which allowed machine operators to directly manage the machine from the ROR. ControlMaster guidance enables independent fleet operations including faster tramming and consistent machine operations and prevents the machine from impacting against the walls of very narrow draw points," Smith added. “This solution reduces unplanned machine maintenance downtime while consistent machine operations allow for better planning and forecasting activities,” Smith concluded.

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