BHP’s ‘next chapter’ to come from automation

The 930E Komatsu truck's prepare for South Flank. Image: Komatsu.

BHP Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) asset president Brandon Craig has emphasised the importance of technology for advancing the company’s productivity in the future.

According to Craig, who delivered at the Austmine 2021 conference on Wednesday, engineering and technology are crucial factors towards improving productivity, safety and social values in the mining industry

“It will make us safer. It will drive exceptional levels of performance and make us more productive. And critically, it will enable social value by underpinning the transitions already underway to a more sustainable future,” he said.

Craig said the next step in enhancing BHP’s productivity will be through automation technology.

BHP has its first autonomous fleet deployed at the Jimblebar iron ore mine in Western Australia, which runs trucks consistently for 7000 hours per year.

“The next chapter in this productivity will come through the greater use of technology such as automation, moving block rail signalling, selective investment in debottlenecking and capacity creep, excellence in reliability management, and by continuing to simplify our business and processes,” Craig said.

“The rate of productivity improvement in our industry has been accelerating … and set to keep improving as we use data better and make quicker and more informed decisions.”

Craig announced that BHP has recruited 200 new train drivers for its pit to port value chain.

According to Craig, this ties in to the company’s focus on social value, which it believes is in part about developing skills and training opportunities for the next generation of workers.

BHP announced first production at the South Flank iron ore mine in Western Australia last week, which the company has hailed as a mine for the future.

“South Flank has been built for the future, from autonomous ready trucks, the latest in ore crushing technology, to our advanced overland conveyor systems which run 15 kilometres to a new ore handling plant at Mining Area C, all controlled from our integrated remote operations centre in Perth,” Craig said.

“With this latest engineering and technology we have established a very efficient mine with a far simpler flow sheet for materials handling, resulting in higher levels of reliability and much safer operations.”

Craig said the mining, equipment, technology and services (METS) sector will give mining companies like BHP the ability to grow further.

“The mining industry is essential to build electricity, transport and urban infrastructure across the globe. That puts the METS sector at the forefront of solving some of the world’s biggest challenges,” he said.

“The supply base and calibre of people we have present a huge opportunity to find solutions to improve safety, increase productivity, and add value to society. Not only at home, but globally.

“Over the next decade or two, the world will undergo a significant transition, and what we are doing here today – focusing on technology and innovation – will sit at the centre of how we manage this challenge.”

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