BHP on its Eastern Ridge mine innovation proving ground in the Pilbara

The power and ability of smartphones didn’t happen overnight, it has evolved as technology improved. BHP says it is adopting a similar methodology when it comes to innovation in its workplace and at its mine sites. BHP General Manager Newman Operations Scott Barber said to succeed in the future of resources, we must be bolder, adapt faster and embrace change. “Innovation through advancements in technology will undoubtedly bring change, as well as new and exciting opportunities for the mining industry and for the people who make it happen,” Scott said. “Our team has chosen to make our Eastern Ridge mine site in Newman the location where we test and trial our new innovations. Eastern Ridge is our proving ground for new technology and it’s an exciting opportunity for our employees and the community as we begin this innovation and technology journey.”

BHP’s Jamie Bennett is responsible for overseeing all innovation projects at Eastern Ridge and says the beauty of innovation is what you don’t see. “When it comes to innovation and technology at Eastern Ridge, our focus is on data,” Bennett said. “We are deep diving into our operations to find out what data we can create, record, monitor, understand and manipulate to help us work smarter, safer and more efficiently. We’ve been testing innovative technology and concepts at Eastern Ridge for the past twelve months, but to the naked eye, the mine site looks exactly the same. What you don’t see are the sensors and monitoring equipment we are creating and using to gather data about our operations. Examples include improving our live mine scheduling and monitoring pay load distribution on our trucks, both of which rely heavily on real-time data analysis.”

He adds: “Before we can initiate physical changes on site, we need to have real-time information about our processes. Our teams are hard at work developing systems to capture and read this data so we are able to use it to improve our daily routines and make operations safer. We see these innovations as the first steps – akin to the first mobile phone – which will set us on a course where technology plays a major role in how we operate.”

Scott Barber said BHP’s ability to successfully embrace and utilise technology relies on our current and future workforce as well as our local communities. “Our people will be the ones to make technological changes happen,” he said. “This means the skills required to work in the mining industry will change too – and the skills people think they need to have to work in mining today may be very different to the skills needed in the future. This is why we are committed to working with our current and future workforce as well as the community in Newman to bring them along this innovative journey.”

“We are already building relationships and engagement programs with a variety of Pilbara stakeholders as well as programs with local schools to educate children and have conversations about what the future of mining will look like and skills required to work in the industry. Our school based traineeship at Newman Senior High School is a perfect example of this. Through this program we are able to give students hands on, skill specific experience and knowledge that accurately reflects the typical work undertaken at our mine sites. It’s a great introduction to our industry, and where our tradespeople, as mentors assist students to complete their training and work their way to certifications in a range of industries, such as automotive, engineering and technology. We hope through these types of initiatives, we can deliver continued growth and development by bringing the community into the workplace and transforming our workplace into a community.”

Innovation initiatives such as the work underway at Eastern Ridge are just a small part of a larger company wide commitment to transform to a safer, more productive, more diverse and ultimately more sustainable BHP, says the company.