The expansion of Fortescue Metals Group’s autonomous haul fleet has marked a significant milestone, with the first trucks fitted with Autonomous Haulage Technology (AHS) now in operation at Christmas Creek. The conversion of approximately 100 haul trucks at the Chichester Hub will see Fortescue become the first iron ore operation in the world to have a fully autonomous fleet, according to the company.

Since the introduction of the technology at Solomon in 2013, AHS trucks have moved 500 million metric tons (mt) of material and have achieved a greater than 30% increase in productivity levels, the company added.

“Innovation and technology is fundamental to driving sustained productivity and efficiency improvements across the business, ensuring we continue to deliver returns for our shareholders and key stakeholders,” Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines said. “Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology is leading to improved safety outcomes by significantly reducing the risk to our team members.”

Workforce skills development has been a significant aspect of planning for the expansion of automation, and the implementation of a staged, sustainable redeployment process has already permanently assigned team members to new roles, she added.

“Training is at the heart of everything that we do and our approach to autonomy is to ensure that no one at Fortescue is displaced as a result of this important initiative,” Gaines said. “We are working closely with our team members to offer professional development opportunities to expand their capabilities and provide pathways to a significant range of different roles throughout the company.”