Emerging lithium–boron supplier ioneer Ltd (ASX: INR) has completed a Technology System Supply Agreement with Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment.
This definitive agreement builds upon the Memorandum of Understanding signed last year and solidifies the early introduction of Cat MineStar Command for hauling, Autonomous Haul System (AHS) at ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmerelda County, Nevada.
Caterpillar has been a leader on the journey toward automation for many years. Fully integrated mining automation systems offer unprecedented improvements in operator safety, equipment utilization, and site productivity.
The results of the Rhyolite Ridge feasibility study in February 2021i showed the viability of AHS at the mine and the proposed application of AHS could positively impact the overall cost structure of the operations.
Cat autonomous mining trucks have safely hauled nearly five billion tonnes of material worldwide, driving over 177 million km without a lost-time injury. The operations are scheduled to start in 2024 with a fleet of Cat 785 next generation mining trucks equipped with Command for hauling, and the fleet is scheduled to expand significantly in 2028.
All support equipment will feature the latest MineStar technology utilizing high-precision GPS and realtime analytics to maximise efficiency and accuracy in material loading.
This will be the first greenfield operation in North America to utilise AHS and will mark the expansion of Command for hauling automation technology to the 140-tonne class Cat785 next generation mining truck.
The equipment, technology, and services for the first five years of operation is valued at approximately US$100 million and may be financed through Caterpillar Financial Services (subject to definitive legal documentation).
“We are pleased to continue to solidify our partnership with Caterpillar as we work towards commencement of production at Rhyolite Ridge. We continue to believe the incorporation of an autonomous haulage system and other Caterpillar technologies at Rhyolite Ridge will only further our goal to improve project safety and operational efficiency,” ioneer’s Managing Director, Bernard Rowe, said.