ASX-listed ioneer has struck a technology system supply agreement with major equipment manufacturer Caterpillar (Cat), solidifying the introduction of autonomous haul trucks at the Rhyolite Ridge project, in Nevada.
The Rhyolite Ridge feasibility study in February last year showed the viability of autonomous haul systems (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 kilometres without a lost-time injury, ioneer said on Friday.
The operations are scheduled to start in 2024 with a fleet of Cat 785 next generation mining trucks equipped with Cat Command for hauling, and the fleet is scheduled to expand significantly in 2028. All support equipment will feature the latest MineStar technology using high-precision GPS and real-time analytics to maximise efficiency and accuracy in material loading.
This will be the first greenfield operation in North America using AHS and will mark the expansion of Command for hauling automation technology to the 140-tonne class Cat785 next generation mining truck, ioneer said.
“We are pleased to continue to solidify our partnership with Caterpillar as we work towards commencement of production at Rhyolite Ridge,” said ioneer MD Bernard Rowe.
“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 is expected to produce a yearly average of 20 600 t/y of lithium carbonate/hydroxide and 174 400 t/y of boric acid over Rhyolite Ridge’s 26-year life. The company said that the dual production of lithium and boric acid allowed ioneer to not only produce lithium in the US, but to do so at the very bottom of the global cost curve.