BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) says it will implement autonomous haulage at its Goonyella Riverside coal mine, in central Queensland, next year.
BMA Asset President, James Palmer, said haul trucks would be retrofitted with autonomous vehicle technology, allowing the completion of an extensive study and engagement with the workforce, community and all levels of government.
“Autonomous haulage will help us improve safety and productivity performance, and it is our people who will be at the centre of making this change a success,” he said.
“While the first autonomous vehicles will not operate at the site until 2020, and full roll-out will take around two years, we want to give people in our workforce and the community as much notice as possible of this change,” Palmer said.
The introduction of autonomous haulage at Goonyella Riverside will involve the staged conversion to an autonomous fleet of up to 86 Komatsu trucks over the next two years. It will build on the mine’s strong production record by increasing truck hours and delivering more consistent cycle times, according to BMA. Haulage automation is also expected to improve safety by reducing risk exposure and decreasing significant events.
There will be no forced employee redundancies at Goonyella Riverside as a result of this decision with respect to autonomous haulage, according to BMA. With recent recruitment of new permanent positions in BHP Operations Services and creation of new roles through autonomous haulage, overall permanent job numbers across BMA operations will increase, the company said.
Palmer said BMA’s long term commitment to the region is underpinned by a responsibility to provide training opportunities for local workers to ensure they have access to the skills and capabilities to succeed in the future of mining.
To help prepare for Goonyella Riverside’s autonomous future, it is estimated over 40,000 hours of training will be delivered, ranging from general awareness to extensive training for those operating equipment, interacting with the autonomous haul trucks, or taking on new roles.
As BMA’s first site to implement autonomous haulage, Palmer said BMA had been talking to its workforce and the local community about the potential for increased automation of mining operations for several months leading up to today’s announcement.
“We understand that automation represents a significant change. It also offers a unique opportunity for people to gain new, highly valued skills,” he said.
No further decisions have been made to implement autonomous haulage at any other site in BMA’s Queensland Coal division, with the company saying any future decisions to implement autonomous haulage will be made on a site-by-site basis.
The first autonomous trucks are expected to be operational in the first half of 2020.