BHP to convert South Flank with autonomous haulage

South Flank

The South Flank site. Image: BHP

BHP will transition its South Flank mine to autonomous haulage, less than a year after first ore was produced at the Western Australian site.

Autonomous haulage will be phased in across five Autonomous Operation Zones (AOZs), beginning in June 2022, with the company flagging a number of new roles at the site following the transition.

By September 2023, the entire fleet of 41 Komatsu 930e haul trucks at South Flank will be converted for autonomous operation, along with about 180 other pieces of equipment that support mining operations including excavators, dozers, front-end loaders, water trucks and site vehicles.

According to a statement from BHP, the introduction of autonomous haulage is expected to deliver far-reaching safety, production and equipment utilisation and reliability benefits, plus new skills and opportunities for the mining and maintenance teams.

“The introduction of autonomous haulage will also open up a new set of career options within BHP, with up to 60 specialist roles being created to ensure the pits are able to run autonomously, and the machines are kept operational,” the company stated.

“These roles include autonomous haulage system controllers, field officers and service technicians.”

First ore was delivered at the site in May last year ahead of the mine’s official opening in October with the development creating 9000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, and will sustain more than 600 permanent ongoing jobs.

The 80 million tonne per annum (Mtpa) site is the largest iron ore mine Australia has seen in over 50 years and combines with BHP’s Mining Area C to be the largest iron ore hub in the world – producing a combined 145Mtpa.

In October, BHP Western Australia iron ore (WAIO) asset president Brandon Craig said South Flank is BHP’s most technically advanced mine.

“It will sustain more than 600 ongoing jobs, plus opportunities for hundreds of local businesses and billions of dollars in royalties to Western Australia,” Craig said

“South Flank’s product has high lump content and increases the quality of BHP’s blended products for steelmaking customers, improving blast furnace efficiency and supporting decarbonisation efforts.

“South Flank’s premium iron ore will be shipped to global steel producers to build electricity, transport and urban infrastructure around the world over the next 25 years.”

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