Like any other day, a heavy haul truck travels along one of the dirt roads at Base Plant’s Millennium Mine, the difference with this truck is, it’s driving itself.

Our Suncor Base Plant site rolled out 15 Autonomous Haulage Systems (AHS) trucks in May with 20 more trucks deployed in June, completing the first phase of the implementation at Millennium oil sands mine. AHS trucks have been tested and used at our Base Plant North Steepbank Extension mine since 2018, but this is a first for our much larger Millennium mine.

This deployment is on track with the plan for 91 AHS trucks to be active at Base Plant by year-end. AHS trucks operate using GPS, wireless communication, and perceptive technologies, offering many advantages to operational performance. 

Embedding AHS into day-to-day mining operations improves safety, reliability and efficiency, while driving a more competitive mining cost per barrel.

"Technology evolution is not new to Suncor," says Erika Doka, HR People Readiness lead for AHS. "AHS is another evolution and advancement in terms of the way we work."

Despite sometimes unpredictable weather conditions that can disrupt road conditions, Millennium Mine AHS provides enhanced safety performance. Due to the operational predictability AHS offers, such as prescribed route mapping and obstacle detection systems, potential injuries and incident rates have decreased at sites with AHS vehicles, ensuring that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day.

"It makes everyone feel safer", adds Michael Gartenburg, Director Operations - AHS Deployment. "This technology provides for better situational awareness. Every vehicle operating in the autonomous zone has a panel that shows the operator where all the AHS trucks are in the mine, allowing them some control when required and reducing unpredictability."

The implementation of AHS has also increased fleet productivity and efficiency by reducing equipment stoppages and improving maintenance scheduling. The system's artificial intelligence allows it to optimize for various driving conditions, reducing the wear and tear on components and allowing the mine sites to reduce maintenance costs.

The introduction of AHS has been a success due to the support from the teams at the mine. The collaboration and efforts that have gone towards AHS, from road maintenance to dispatch, have allowed the fleet to literally roll-out smoothly and safely while increasing productivity on site.

"A lot of work has gone into the success of AHS," says Michael. "It's a testament to the capabilities, experience and motivation of those in the mine."

The continuous evolution of AHS deployment has shown that the team at Base Plant's Millennium mine can adapt and leverage the full value of this innovative technology, solidifying a successful future for Suncor by delivering a more safe, reliable and cost-effective operation.