BHP in its annual results to end June 2019 says autonomous truck hauling remains in feasibility across not only its Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) but also its Queensland Coal sites with over 500 trucks being automated in total. Safety incidents with the automated trucks are down by over 80% and the company says the first of several investment decisions are expected by end 2019. Beyond that there will be a staged site rollout from 2020 onwards ie it will be done on a site by site basis.
Andrew Mackenzie, CEO, stated in the investor briefing: “As part of our Transformation program, we expect the gradual deployment of autonomous trucks at our Australian coal and iron ore sites to unlock further efficiencies. A decision to proceed with our first deployment at Queensland Coal’s Goonyella Mine is expected to be made by the end of next month.”
The main results statement said: “In accordance with our Capital Allocation Framework, a decision on the deployment of autonomous trucks will be made on a site by site basis, considering return and risk metrics, as we look to replicate the improvement in haulage costs and reduction in safety incidents seen at Jimblebar.”
Overall WAIO and Queensland Coal have been performing very well. “Over the past five years at Western Australia Iron Ore, we lifted plant and equipment performance to well above design capacity of 240 million tonnes a year. In total, we have increased production by 20% and reduced costs by 50%. We are now the lowest cost iron ore producer and have plans to go lower, as we work towards 290 million tonnes per year on a sustainable basis…over the past five years at Queensland Coal, despite a 14% increase in strip ratios, we have increased production and reduced unit costs by over 15%.”