Major miners and OEMs unite on autonomous safety

BHP's Jimblebar operation in Western Australia. Image: BHP

A new whitepaper highlights the importance of having a system safety approach towards autonomous mining as technological advancements continue to underwrite the resources industry.

The whitepaper comes from the Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG), a united network of representatives made up of major mining and METS companies such as BHP, Caterpillar, Komatsu and Rio Tinto.

It aims to increase awareness about the importance of having a structure and concerted strategy around safety in autonomous mining.

According to GMG, system safety is critical in this ever-evolving space, where much of the responsibility lands on the shoulders of an automated machine rather than a human.

“A system safety approach provides an overview of the overall effectiveness of the safety controls that extends beyond the machines and can be a useful qualitative tool for operations when assessing the overall safety of their systems,” the whitepaper states.

“This type of systems approach is especially important as highly autonomous and highly integrated solutions evolve.”

The whitepaper provides education and context on safety management and the system safety lifecycle, the purpose and typical contents of a safety case, the significance of human-systems integration and factors that influence software safety management.

“With an ever-increasing use of technology in mining, particularly in surface mining equipment, it is important to understand the overall impact of systems implementation on safety,” project co-leader and BHP Mining Systems principal Chirag Sathe said.

“I hope the whitepaper helps to increase the awareness of this important emerging topic in mine safety, not only within mining companies but also for OEMs, technology developers and implementors.”

Project co-leader Gareth Topham believes the whitepaper consolidates the importance of collaboration in safety.

“The white paper demonstrates that the mining community continues to see the benefit in collaborating to ensure the introduction and the ongoing operation of autonomous mobile equipment is done in a safe environment,” he said.

“It will enable discussions between all parties to pursue opportunities to improve the level of risk to safety by addressing the topics that are contained in the paper and improving on the communication that delivers a more holistic understanding of these systems.”

Read the whitepaper here.

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