Driverless machines a game changer

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 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 semi-autonomous tractor systems technology, putting the machinery to the 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 playing a critical role in continuity and extending employment. It is about being smarter, safer and future-proofing business.”

Mrs Wolff said the machines would add to the footprint of the company’s workforce and 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 excavation – including tasks of ripping rock – meant 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, and 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 the equipment had been tested previously in research trial conditions at Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming.

“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 latest in technology, and part of Caterpillar’s wider MineStar suite for minesite automation of hauling and drilling.

“The semi-autonomous Cat D11T tractors will not only extend the working life of contractors in the field, but 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 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.

The trial will run for a targeted 18 months. Significant results in efficiency are expected within six to seven months.

Mr Scott said utilising the remote dozing technology would reduce unit costs through increasing dozer operation, increased process consistency and increased execution of best-in-class practices.

“Application of advanced technologies requires not only innovative systems, but integration with people and process,” he said.

"To take advantage of the automation benefits, the Wyoming mine altered a portion of its production sequence so dozers could continue working?in the cast overburden, taking advantage of the consistent and optimised operation. Dozers operating 24/7 at the mine magnify these benefits.”

Picture: Wolff Group’s Terry and Wanda Wolff with Hastings Deering Executive General Manager Mining Mark Scott. Supplied.

latest news

Green light for Gruyere pipe

Work is expected to begin next month on a $180 million pipeline to pump gas from the Eastern Goldfields to the remote Gruyere gold mine 200km east of Laverton, after pipe owner APA Group secured final approval from the State Government to go ahead.

Read more

Lionstown focus on lithium

Minnow explorer Liontown Resources has relaunched a campaign targeting high-grade lithium mineralisation at its Northern Goldfields-based Kathleen Valley project in an attempt to firm targets for the rising commodity.

Read more

Breaker keen for early start

The owner of a new greenfields gold development east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder says it could enter production early after posting high recoveries in metallurgical test work.

Read more

Focus on Three Mile Hill

Chinese-backed gold miner Focus Minerals is getting closer to a potential restart of its Coolgardie gold operations, starting the process to return power to its Three Mile Hill processing plant and closing in on the sale of the unwanted Jasper Hills project near Laverton, Western Australian.

Read more

DRA acquires Australian firm

Privately-owned South African engineering services group DRA has agreed to acquire Australia’s Minnovo Global for an undisclosed sum, with the transaction expected to be completed this quarter.

Read more

NSW coal project wins Government backing

The Wallarah 2 underground coal project has been approved by the New South Wales Government, despite ongoing community opposition on the state’s Central Coast.

Read more


industry insight

The far reach of battery tech

Not that long ago it was described as ‘flying under the radar’, but as the electric vehicle (EV)

Products & Technology

Revolutionising In-Pit Dewatering

People & Projects

Contract win spurs Pacific Industrial Company 

Occupational safety & health

Organic growth spurs safety app success 


All work, all play for Sentient

A first person shooter first helped Sentient Computing realise the potential of video game technology.

Read more