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There Will Be Fewer Equipment Operators, Says BHP; Plans To Order 500 Autonomous Haul Trucks

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Iron ore giant BHP Billiton plans to spend just under US$800 million to add about 500 autonomous trucks to its fleet.

The plan, which is still in the feasiblity stage, was announced at a mid-month investor presentation. If BHP goes ahead, the rollout will occur over the next three years, and the new trucks will be deployed at Western Australia iron ore and Queensland coal sites.

The autonomy push is part of a US$3 billion overall plan to reduce costs by applying technology.

BHP said the new technology has to be embraced, and resisting change is "no longer an option."

"The technology is coming - whether we like it or not," said Rag Udd, VP Technology, Global Transformation who spoke at AustMine 2019.

"At BHP, there are thousands of things to think about as we consider our transformation agenda. First, we embrace that this is no longer an option - it is essential. And second, we welcome that this must be an exercise in partnership, human network building, co-creation and collaboration."

Udd lauded BHP's training programs to transition workers. He said the company's Integrated Remote Operations Centre retrained 400 workers who formerly operated heavy vehicles.

"Now, they’re remotely driving our entire East Coast coal business – from pit to port."

"Over time, as we progress – yes, let’s be transparent - this will mean fewer equipment operators. But it will mean more controllers, more builders and more technicians. It will mean less physical and less routine jobs. But it will mean more dynamic, fulfilling careers."

Creative Commons image of mining truck courtesy of Francisco Anzola
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.

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