Overland conveyor to deliver productivity improvements 

Fortescue Metals Group will trial an innovative, relocatable overland conveyor at its Cloudbreak mine as part of its 2018 financial year innovation drive.

The conveyor, which will occur alongside the expansion of autonomous haulage technology at the company’s Solomon Hub and the roll-out of the same technology at its Chichester Hub, is part of Fortescue’s assessment of options to replace the output from its small but integral Firetail deposit.

Firetail’s high-grade ore and lower mining cost have helped FMG lower operating costs significantly over the past few years, but the company will need to find a replacement ore source over the coming years.

The trial of the conveyor comes as FMG’s iron ore rivals ramp up the use of similar technology.

A total of 68km of conveyor belts is used to move ore at Vale’s massive S11D complex in Brazil, opened last December, as part of the mine’s truckless system, which Vale estimates will cut fuel costs by as much as 70 per cent.

Closer to home, Rio Tinto last year contracted RCR Resources to construct 9km of overland conveyors at its Silvergrass mine in the Pilbara.

In central Queensland earlier this year, the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance announced a US$204 (A$266) million investment in an 11km overland conveyor system between its Peak Downs coal mine and its coal handling preparation plant at the nearby Caval Ridge mine.

Fortescue said its conveyor, together with the expansion of its autonomous haulage technology, would deliver sustained productivity improvements across the business by lowering haulage costs to offset rising strip ratios.

Benefits will be partially delivered in FY18, and fully during the following financial years.

“Fortescue is continuing to introduce leading-edge technology across our business to ensure it remains at the lowest end of the global cost curve,” FMG Chief Executive Officer Nev Power said.

“Our focus remains on improving safety and increasing productivity and efficiency to deliver ongoing cost reductions.

“These projects will encompass technological advancement, workforce skills development and collaboration with our suppliers to harness the best ideas and position Fortescue strongly for the future.”

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