BHP ramps up Pilbara autonomous transition

Western Australia Iron Ore. Image: BHP

BHP has welcomed its first fleet of autonomous trucks to the Newman East iron ore mine in Western Australia, with the full roll out due to take place by September.

Newman East will be the second BHP mine in Western Australia to transition to fully autonomous haulage, with 20 trucks to arrive before the end of the year.

BHP’s Newman operations general manager Marie Bourgoin said the transition would create 41 new, permanent roles without any redundancies.

“We have created new control centre and roles, which many of our truck operators have transitioned into, as well as new opportunities in truck maintenance and fuelling,” she said.

“Importantly we have created 41 new permanent roles, which are being offered locally as well as FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) and will continue to be filled over coming months.”

More than 300 people in the Newman operations workforce were also undergoing training and upskilling to work on an autonomous haulage site.

The transition will result in $33 million in contract awards to Western Australian businesses.

“We recognise how important it is for BHP to partner with local and small businesses, particularly as we move into a post-COVID economic recovery phase,” Bourgoin said.

“We are pleased to have been able to offer $33 million in contracts to WA vendors for a range of work packages including autonomous conversion kits, trailers, training content development, and a number of engineering and construction packages.”

BHP’s Newman East mine is part of the company’s Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) operation. It includes four processing hubs and five mines that are connected by more than 1000 kilometres of rail infrastructure and port facilities in the Pilbara region.

The autonomous transition at Newman East follows a similar move at BHP’s Jimblebar iron ore mine in 2017, which has since seen a reduction in significant events involving trucks by almost 90 per cent.

In Queensland, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) last week announced plans to introduce 34 autonomous trucks at the Daunia coal mine through a $100 million investment.

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