WA Iron Ore reaches autonomous drilling milestone

BHP WA Iron Ore has reached a significant milestone, with its drills operating autonomously for more than 479,607 hours, drilling more than 25 million metres.

That is equivalent to drilling the distance from Perth to Newman almost 21 times.

WAIO’s remotely operated drilling program commenced at Yandi in late 2016 and has since expanded to a total of 26 rigs across its five Pilbara mine sites.

The rigs are all controlled remotely from the Integrated Remote Operations Centre (IROC) in Perth.

WAIO asset president Brandon Craig said the autonomous drilling program sought to eliminate the risk of safety incidents and serious injuries to staff, and by removing them from the drilling frontline, there has also been an increase in overall drill productivity.

WAIO now has one of the biggest autonomous drill fleets in the world – which is managed by 32 crew members and one engineer all based at IROC.


  • November 2016: Yandi completes a successful 18-month trial of three autonomous drill rigs, paving the way for a staged approach across other WAIO mine sites
  • January 2017: Mining Area C introduces autonomous drilling
  • October 2017: Newman’s Eastern Ridge mine implements autonomous drill rigs
  • December 2017: Jimblebar introduces autonomous drilling
  • March 2018: Newman’s Whaleback mine implements autonomous drill rigs
  • 2020: South Flank rolls out autonomous drill rigs, making WAIO’s drill rig program fully autonomous
Editor of industrial titles and mastheads with Prime Creative Media. Publications include Rail Express and Australian Mining (web content).
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