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Load operators work operating machines from a control room. (Caterpillar)

Caterpillar, Newmont partner on underground vehicle automation technology

Caterpillar and Newmont Mining have partnered to validate and improve underground hard rock mining vehicle automation technology. Nevada Cat dealer Cashman Equipment Co. will also support the collaboration.

The effort will initially focus on Command for underground, the Cat system for semi-autonomous and remote operation of underground loaders. Command for underground is a technology within Cat MineStar.

Gold and copper producer Newmont is the largest user of Cat underground vehicle automation technology in the western hemisphere, according to Caterpillar. The company currently operates underground loaders using Command for loading in its Carlin gold mines located in northern Nevada. Caterpillar says the agreement leverages and builds on this experience to take underground vehicle automation to the next level of performance.

“Automating underground loaders enables machine operators to work safely and efficiently from a control room on the surface,” Graden Colby, underground operations manager, Leeville mine, said in a news release. “In addition to enhancing safety, the semi-autonomous system increases loader utilization, improves productivity and allows one operator to control two or more machines.”

The collaboration agreement seeks to improve existing technology and accelerate validation and deployment of new features. Newmont, Caterpillar and Cashman share objectives and align to ensure Command technology delivers the desired benefits now and meets expectations for the future. The agreement also provides for sharing information to help guide strategic and tactical decision-making related to automation.

According to Randy Schoepke, underground commercial manager for Caterpillar’s mining technology group, “Our business is built on cultivating long-term relationships to generate value for our customers. Our agreement with Newmont allows two industry leaders to tackle challenges and push each other to achieve step changes in performance by making best use of real-world experience.”

“Through our shared vision with Caterpillar and Cashman—along with senior management commitment—we are tackling a new frontier in mining to improve safety, productivity and costs,” said David Thornton, general manager of Newmont’s Carlin underground operations. “The agreement provides the platform for new or improved capabilities to be jointly and quickly scoped, piloted, proven and adopted into operations.”

The agreement also creates a basis for rapid replication across Newmont’s business. “Through Caterpillar’s global business model and dealer network, our Command for underground operating model can be deployed relatively easily at other Newmont mines and generate additional value from the use of common and consistent operating technology,” said Mike Wundenberg, Newmont’s vice president of operational technology and innovation.
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