Regulator uncovers cause of Wilpinjong autonomous machinery collision

Image: New South Wales Resources Regulator

The New South Wales Resources Regulator has cited a breakdown in communications as one of the contributing factors of an automated machinery collision at Peabody Energy’s Wilpinjong coal mine in May this year.

Resources Regulator chief inspector of mines Garvin Burns said a Caterpillar bulldozer operating semi-autonomously collided with a Hitachi hydraulic excavator during operations at the mine.

The excavator travelled into the path of the dozer, while the dozer was reversing.

This incident left the excavator driver trapped and the excavator shunted. The driver was rescued and was not injured.

The incident was of “particular interest” as the trialling and use of autonomous and remote-controlled equipment is increasing in mines.

“The investigation identified a number of contributing factors to the incident including poor sight lines and a breakdown in communications,” Burns said.

“However, of even more importance, the investigation and subsequent actions by the operator identified a number of key engineering and technology measures that have since been implemented to prevent reoccurrence.”

These include the installation of a proximity awareness and autonomous stop system on all machinery and portable units for staff working in the area, according to Burns.

He advised mine operators to install an aerial camera and increase separation between machinery.

The regulator undertook the causal investigation in conjunction with Peabody Energy representatives, equipment manufacturers and worker representatives.