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Mining company Champion Iron has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with US-based Caterpillar (CAT) for AI-powered drilling technologies on Cat equipment at its Bloom Lake Mine in Canada.

The LOI involves the progressive deployment of a remote-controlled, semi-autonomous and fully autonomous Cat electric drilling fleet. This will leverage the technologies engineered, designed or integrated by Caterpillar.

Champion expects the partnership to help optimise the operational productivity at the mine while reducing energy consumption.

The firm said that a drill-to-mill (D2M) strategy will be implemented to optimise the drilling, loading and hauling processes, as well as offer improved milling performance by supplying an optimised mill feed.

Caterpillar’s integrated technology, which will utilise real-time data, artificial intelligence and analytics, is expected to support Champion’s ability to assess the status of machines, technologies, and materials.

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According to Champion, this would sunsequently allow more timely and accurate operational decisions for the miner and ensure consistent execution across its mining value chain.

By delivering fully integrated D2M technology, the collaborative effort aims to improve workflow between the mine and plant, as well as provide a more efficient end-to-end enterprise process.

Champion CEO David Cataford said: “The aim and vision of improving mining practices and ultimately reducing waste and energy use is the foundation of this collaboration.

“The entire Bloom Lake team has already demonstrated its ability to operate at a consistently high level, since commissioning the mine in 2018. In doing so, we have continuously strived to improve operations utilising the best existing and new prospective mining technologies.

“Drill-to-mill aligns with our core value of respecting the land that we exploit, as it will enable us to responsibly extract non-renewable resources using the best means possible.”

Through its subsidiary Québec Iron Ore, Champion restarted the Bloom Lake Iron Ore Mine in Fermont, north-east Quebec, Canada, in February 2018.