Anglo American says it has commenced a study to determine the feasibility of an Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) for a portion of its truck fleet at its open-pit Dawson coal mine, in central Queensland, Australia.
The detailed study to replace 23 trucks with an AHS at Dawson will be finalised towards the end of this year, at which point a decision will be made about whether to proceed, Anglo said.
The timing of the Dawson study is aligned to a key decision on whether to undertake major overhauls on the ageing Cat 797 fleet or replace them, according to Anglo.
Operations at Dawson are made up of three operating pits; North, Central and South. First mined in 1961 for export coal to Japan, it was the first mine to introduce draglines into its operation in 1963, according to Anglo.
Each year, Dawson produces coking, soft coking and thermal coal, using open pit and highwall mining methods. Coal is railed to Gladstone for export to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India.
Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, said while no decisions had been made regarding the feasibility of the project, Anglo was conscious of the need to minimise the impact on its workforce.
“We’ve informed our workforce that, if the project proceeds, we would work through redeployment options for impacted employees and there would also be new roles created, leading to training opportunities,” Mitchelson said.
“We also understand the importance of locally-based employment to our communities, and we have reinforced to our community stakeholders that if the project proceeds, our intent is to protect local jobs and continue to undertake measures to encourage people to live locally.”
While AHS has been in use at other mining operations for many years, the technology has now progressed to the stage where Anglo American is assessing the “feasibility of operationalising it in open-pit coal mining”, the company said.
Anglo’s Mitchelson said the study was part of Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™ approach, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s major challenges.
“Anglo American has been at the forefront of embracing innovation to drive the next level of mine performance. This study will focus on whether an AHS has economic and practical application for our Dawson mine, in support of its journey to become a safer and more sustainable mine.”
Mitchelson explained that the company’s study is being run in parallel with a process to assess potential AHS providers.
“The accelerating pace of technological innovation, particularly in the digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence areas, are opening up opportunities for the mining sector to be safer, more productive and sustainable,” he said.