BHP targets pit-to-port automation through tech transformation

Advanced car manufacturing technology to inform the future of mining at BHP. Image: BHP

BHP plans to fully integrate and highly automate its value chain, from pit to port, by replicating the operations of the aerospace and automotive industries.

Diane Jurgens, BHP chief technology officer, noted the company’s strategy was for the value chain to be “highly automated, not fully.”

“This is because we automate equipment and processes where it provides the highest value,” Jurgens, speaking at the Bank of America Merryll Lynch SmartMine conference in London, said.

BHP is currently transforming the technology that connects 13 assets, seven seaports and a 1350-kilometre rail network, about the distance from London to Warsaw.

The company is striving to unlock “value worth tens of billions of dollars” with innovation and technology development, according to Jurgens.

BHP has established integrated remote operating centres across the majority of its bulk and base metal operations, with a copper integrated operations centre to be officially opened in Santiago, Chile next month.

Each of BHP’s remote centres monitors and directs operations across its entire supply chain to improve throughput.

“With processes, equipment and people working in concert across a production value chain – an entire industry has been transformed,” Jurgens said.

“Applied well, (technology) will further strengthen our safety performance, make our operations more stable, predictable and efficient, and unlock resources.”

BHP has used advanced imaging and machine learning to study the historical drill data of Oak Dam, an early stage copper discovery near the Olympic Dam operations in South Australia.

“Imagine searching for a needle in a haystack but with the help of a strong magnet,” Jurgens says.

BHP is running a second round of drilling to further define the mineralisation of the Oak Dam area.

The company has so far encountered copper grade intersections as high as about six per cent, along with gold, uranium and silver.

“With improved data acquisition technology, we were able to obtain a set of much more granular data across a more targeted area,” Jurgens says.

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