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First trial of driverless dozers in Australia

An Australian first production trial aiming to increase mine efficiency and worker safety and longevity will kick off in Queensland next month thanks to a unique partnership between Wolff Group, Hastings Deering and Caterpillar.

The Toowoomba based Wolff Group, incorporating Wolff Mining, is the first company in Australia to showcase the very latest in technology in semi-autonomous tractor systems putting the machinery to test in real mine conditions.

Wolff Mining directors Wanda and Terry Wolff will be the first in the country to place three state of the art semi-autonomous Cat D11T machines into a contract bulk push scenario at an open-cut coal mine in Central Queensland.

“These machines will be game changers for the mining sector, “Mr Wolff said, “The unpredictable nature of the resources sector means companies need to run more efficiently than ever before. Technology will allow for resilience: not only paving the way for increasing productivity rates and operational excellence, but will also play a critical role in continuity and extending employment. It is about being smarter, safer and future proofing business.”

Mrs Wolff said the machines would not only add to the footprint of the company’s workforce but also provide the opportunity for workplace diversity, allowing for industry entry of people previously excluded from in-cab, manual operation of dozers.

“The repetitive nature of this kind of excavations, including tasks of ripping rock, means workers usually retired before they were 50,” she said, “These machines will allow operatives to be up skilled, creating a more adaptive organisation. We are excited to be involved; as a smaller, agile company we will quickly adapt to unlock and fully leverage the potential of the technology in shaping the future of our business.”

Hastings Deering Executive General Manager – Mining Mark Scott said previously the equipment had been tested in research trial conditions at Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming, USA.

“This trial is the first of this scale in Australia and outside previous test environments,” Mr Scott said, “It is also the first production implementation of Caterpillar’s COMMAND for Dozing semi-autonomous tractor system: the very latest in technology and part of Caterpillar’s wider MineStar suite of technology for mine site automation of hauling and drilling.

“The semi-autonomous Cat D11T tractors will not only extend the working life of contractors in the field but also create more skilled jobs. One operator will be able to oversee the activities of multiple D11T tractors from a safe and remote location. This will create opportunities to allow mining in environments where there have been issues for operator safety. “

Together Wolff Group, Hastings Deering and Caterpillar showcased the machines at a three day Industry Demonstration Event at Willawong in Brisbane.

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