BHP is introducing 20 autonomous trucks to its fleet at the Newman East (Eastern Ridge) iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region by the end of this year.
The company made the decision to go autonomous at the Pilbara iron ore site for the significant safety benefits and to complement the mine’s design, culture and existing infrastructure.
“Newman East is home to our innovation centre, so we’re already using technology there that helps us to be safer and more efficient,” Newman operations general manager Marie Bourgoin said.
“Autonomous trucks were the next logical step.”
This shift will create more than 30 new permanent jobs at Newman East, to run and maintain the trucks, according to Bourgoin.
Bourgoin has also confirmed that there will be no employee redundancies as a result of the decision to automate Newman East.
“The new roles will plan the truck routes and operate the autonomous systems from a control centre, which will initially be located at the mine,” Bourgoin said.
“New opportunities in truck maintenance and fuelling will also be created. 300 people in our local workforce will receive training, ranging from extensive technical training for those in new roles.”
Other members of the Newman East workforce will also receive training in how to safely work around the autonomous vehicles.
The implementation of the trucks will also generate more than $33 million in contracts for Western Australian businesses.
The work required to transition Newman to autonomous haulage includes autonomous conversion kits, trailers, training content development and engineering and construction packages.
“We’re excited to build on our partnership with the Shire of East Pilbara and many other community groups to identify opportunities for local businesses to partner with us in delivering and supporting our autonomous truck operations,” Bourgoin said.
The first of the 20 autonomous vehicles will commence operations at Newman East from June this year.
There has been no decision to introduce autonomous trucks at the other half of BHP’s Newman operations, Newman West, locally known as Mt Whaleback.