BHP is confident that autonomous trucks will deliver safety advantages, with the Eastern Ridge iron ore mine in Western Australia set to be the next operation to benefit from the move.
The world’s largest miner intends to introduce 20 autonomous trucks to Eastern Ridge by the end of this year.
“(Eastern Ridge) is home to our innovation centre, so we’re already using technology there that helps us to be safer and more efficient; autonomous trucks were the logical next step,” BHP general manager Newman operations, Marie Bourgoin said.
More than 30 new permanent roles will be created to run and maintain the trucks, according to Bourgoin.
They involve planning the truck routes and operating the autonomous systems from a control centre, which will initially be located at the mine.
BHP will also create new job opportunities in truck maintenance and fuelling.
“We are committed to providing opportunities for our local workforce to gain new and highly-valued skills, and there will be no employee redundancies as a result of this decision,” Bourgoin said.
“Three hundred people in our local workforce will receive training, ranging from extensive technical training for those in new roles, to learning how to safely work around autonomous trucks for the broader workforce.”
The first autonomous trucks will begin operating at Eastern Ridge from June this year. BHP has operated a fully-autonomous truck fleet at its Western Australian Jimblebar mine since 2017.
The transition will provide more than $33 million in contracts to Western Australian businesses.
Bourgoin said identifying opportunities to partner with Western Australian businesses was a crucial consideration when planning for this decision.
“More than $33 million of the work needed to be done to transition to autonomous haulage will be undertaken by local Western Australian businesses, including autonomous conversion kits, trailers, training content development and a number of engineering and construction packages,” she said.
“We’re excited to build on our partnership with the Shire of East Pilbara, and many other community groups, through the Newman Futures Program to identify opportunities for local Newman businesses to partner with us in delivering and supporting our autonomous truck operations.
“Newman Futures has been working to support community ideas for a sustainable and diverse economy. Our support includes funding a three-year Innovation Partnership with the Newman Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a number of workshops for local children related to automation, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and new technologies in mining.”