Vale Expands Use of AI & Autonomous Equipment
Strategic Research Institute
Published on :
20 Apr, 2022, 6:30 am
Artificial intelligence, computer systems, GPS and radars are part of the routine of over 300 Vale’s employees in Brazil being benefited by the autonomous operation. With this technology, that started being used four years ago, equipment operates with no personnel inside the cabins, which significantly reduces the risks to which employees are exposed in the operational area, in addition to providing more stability to the operation and generating gains of efficiency. With the start-up of the autonomous stocking yard at Ilha Guaíba Terminal, in Mangaratiba (Rio de Janeiro state), Brazil, which took place this week, Vale reached the landmark of 72 autonomous equipment in operation in four Brazilian states.
The company delivered last January the 18th stocking yard machine at Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal, in São Luís (Maranhão state), and in February the 11th drill rig in Itabira, at Minas Gerais state. The autonomous are also present in the operations in Carajás, Pará state, and Brucutu, Minas Gerais. A total of 24 haul trucks, 18 drill rigs and 30 yard machines are operating in the autonomous mode.
Besides safety and efficiency gains, which are common to all autonomous equipment, there are also sustainability benefits in the case of mobile equipment, such as haul trucks and drill rigs, due to the reduction in fuel consumption and the increase in components lifespan.
The first autonomous pieces of equipment to come into operation were haul trucks and drill rigs, in 2018, at Brucutu mine. Currently, there are haul trucks, drill rigs and stocking yard machines also operating in Carajás and drill rigs in Itabira; along with the yard machines started up this year in São Luís and Mangaratiba. Vale also operates autonomous drill rigs and scoops in its underground mines in Canada and an autonomous yard in Malaysia.
As the autonomous mode has advanced, around 300 employees ceased to work in areas that are subject to the risks inherent to the operation, such as mine pits and stocking yards in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Pará, Rio de Janeiro and Maranhão.?The implementation of autonomous mode in operations is being accompanied by training plans for employees to work with new technologies, preparing them for the mining of the future. All employees involved in the project received training, either for new roles (as truck lane designer) or to perform the same functions in a different way, interacting with autonomous vehicles.
Vale's autonomous program continues to expand, with a total investment of around US$ 45 million in 2022. By the end of this year, three more haul trucks, two yard machines and five drilling rigs will come into operation in Carajás, in addition to one more truck in Brucutu and three drilling rigs in Itabira, bringing the number of autonomous equipment to 86 in Brazil. “The autonomous operation is making processes more stable and in line with safety standards, supporting Vale in its ambition to become a benchmark in mining safety,” explains program manager Pedro Bemfica. “Furthermore, the introduction of digital technology is making employees even more prepared for the industry's transformation trend.”