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    Friday, September 3, 2021

    Brazil's Vale Launches Self-Driving Trucks at its Largest Iron Mine Carajas

    ETF’s modular electric trucks are an example of the new, cleaner, electric vehicles the mining industry is producing. Credit: Courtesy of ETF Mining

    Transport and haulage remain some of the most dangerous jobs in mining, with most fatalities and accidents occurring when humans work with vehicles. With opportunities for driverless vehicles on the rise, truck manufacturer ETF is optimistic about the future of automation, but questions remain as to how ready the mining industry is to implement autonomous technology on a large scale.

    Brazilian miner Vale SA said on Thursday September 2 that it had started using self-driving trucks for the first time at the Carajas complex, the country's largest iron ore mining operation. The samba country admits they are continuing to expand the use of driverless technology.

    “Vale hopes to increase productivity and safety by using trucks to transport iron ore,” said Pedro Bemfica, executive leading the autonomous technology program.

    The six mining self-driving vehicles in Carajas are nearly twice as tall and more than three times the width of a conventional truck. The truck is capable of holding 320 tons of iron ore.

    The giant will operate alongside its fleet of about 120 normal off-road vehicles in Carajas, located in Para state, northern Amazon. The company plans to add four self-driving trucks by the end of this year.

    The company estimates that the trucks, operating constantly and at higher speeds, will reduce fuel consumption by about 5% and help Vale's plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

    The costs associated with wear and tear should also be lower with less spending on lubricants and tires.

    "The principle goal is really to bring safety," said Bemfica. "We are launching this technology in trucks with the aim of removing people from inherent risk."

    The company's entire fleet of 13 off-road vehicles at the Brucutu mine in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais is autonomous. There hasn't been a single accident since the technology was first introduced there in 2016.

    The executive said the company intends to invest $64 million in expanding its self-driving truck fleet to 37 units in Carajas, though he did not give a clear timeframe for when that would be completed.

    “Vale also has four autonomous drilling rigs in Carajas and plans to add three more by the end of the year,” Bemfica said.

    On Wednesday, September 1, Virgin Galactic said it was planning another SpaceShipTwo flight from New Mexico. They are targeting flight schedules at the end of September or early October, pending technical and weather checks. The flight will carry a crew of three from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council.

    Branson was among six Virgin Galactic employees who took part in the July flight, soaring more than 50 miles (80 km) over the New Mexico desert. He has touted the mission as a precursor to a new era of space tourism and said the company he founded in 2004 was ready to start commercial operations next year.

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