Ioneer has signed a technology systems supply agreement with Caterpillar (Cat), reinforcing the introduction of automated delivery trucks at the Rhyolite Ridge project in Nevada.
The Rhyolite Ridge Feasibility Study last February showed the viability of an Automated Transport System (AHS) at the mine and that the proposed adoption of AHS could have a positive impact on the overall structure of transaction costs.
Ioneer said on Friday that self-driving mining trucks have safely transported nearly 5 billion tonnes of material worldwide, travelling more than 177 million miles without a lost-time accident.
Operations are expected to begin in 2022 with a fleet of next-generation Cat 785 mining trucks equipped with Cat Command for transportation, and the fleet is expected to expand significantly by 2028.
All assistive devices will be equipped with the latest MineStar technology, using highly precise tools. Use GPS and real-time analytics to maximize material loading accuracy and efficiency.
This will be the first all-new operation in North America using AHS and marks Command’s expansion of transport automation technology to the next-generation Cat785 mining truck, iOneer said.
Equipment, technology, and services for the first 5 years of operation are valued at approximately $100 million and may be funded by Caterpillar Financial Services.
“We are delighted to continue to strengthen our partnership with Caterpillar as we strive to begin production at Rhyolite Ridge,” said General Manager Bernard Rowe.
“We continue to believe that integrating autonomous transportation and other Caterpillar technologies at Rhyolite Ridge will only help us improve the safety and operational efficiency of the project.”
Ioneer is expected to produce an annual average of 20,600 t/y of lithium carbonate/hydroxide and 174400 t/y of boric acid over the Rhyolite Ridge’s 26-year life.
The company says the dual production of lithium and boric acid allows ioneer to not only produce lithium in the United States but to do so at the bottom end of the global cost curve.