BHP purchased 41 Komatsu 930E-5 ultra-class haul trucks, made autonomous ready, for its new South Flank iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Komatsu is delivering the trucks now through October.

Talking to Australia’s Financial Review, Sean Taylor, Komatsu Australia’s CEO and Managing Director, said: ”[This sale] is big news for us because it is our first big fleet of mining trucks with BHP in Western Australia … we are pretty excited about it because we feel it shows a fair amount of confidence in Komatsu.”

Set to be one of the world’s largest iron ore production hubs, the South Flank project expects to ship its first ore in 2021. Located in BHP’s Mining Area C, it will supply the company’s Western Australia Iron Ore division with roughly 80 million metric tons per year (mt/y), replacing production from the Yandi mine, which is reaching the end of its economic life. The South Flank deposit is 26 km long and will require a significant investment in infrastructure and operations. BHP owns 85% of the $3 billion project, which is currently 39% complete.

Komatsu has deployed 250 autonomous ready trucks worldwide and 180 are operating autonomously now. These trucks have moved more than 2 billion mt of material autonomously with zero injuries. While there is no need for drivers, these fleets still require considerable manpower to operate.

“Komatsu focuses on autonomous technology driven job creation, with an emphasis on safety, diversity, upskilling and an innovative flexible workforce that marries our people’s needs with business goals. This is our blueprint for the future,” Taylor said. He explained that Komatsu is committed to employing local workers to support the South Flank fleet, which includes technicians, apprentices, mechanics, welders and electricians.