BMA to invest in autonomous haul trucks at Daunia coal mine

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BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) has announced a A$100 million ($69 million) investment and new jobs as part of the introduction of 34 autonomous trucks at its Daunia mine in central Queensland, Australia.

The first retrofit trucks will begin working from February next year, with the rollout expected to be completed by the end of 2021, it said.

The 4.5 Mt/y Daunia coal mine opened in 2013 and has a truck fleet that includes Cat 793Fs.

BMA Asset President, James Palmer, said this was a multi-generational investment in the industry and  state at a time when it is needed.

“We acknowledge the important role our business and industry can play in supporting Queensland communities and the local economy during this time,” he said.

“This announcement is a vote of confidence in Central Queensland. At least 10 regional and indigenous businesses will be employed to support the rollout, with contracts worth A$35 million. This will result in 150 additional project roles for BMA people and contractors. This is on top of 56 new permanent roles on site.”

He reiterated that there would be no job losses as a result of the decision and anyone who currently works with the company – as an employee or labour hire worker – would be given the opportunity to continue to do so.

Hastings Deering’s Central Queensland operations will see an additional 30 jobs required to assist with truck and ancillary fleet conversion.

Hastings Deering CEO, Dean Mehmet, said: “This contract is a huge boost to our local business and the region. We will need 30 additional people to support the work that is required to convert the trucks and ancillary mining fleet into autonomous vehicles at Daunia. It’s exciting work to build on that allows us to grow and develop local talent to deliver technology solutions into the resources sector.”

Other examples of local businesses that will directly benefit from this decision include NB Industries, who will complete the light vehicle fleet conversion, and Radlink who will install wireless communication hardware across the mine.

NB Industries is also involved in completing the fit out of ancillary equipment for the AHS rollout at BMA’s Goonyella Riverside mine, in Central Queensland.

Palmer highlighted the employee engagement and training that is central to this decision.

“We have engaged with our workforce at Daunia over the previous 18 months on the possible rollout of autonomous haulage. Our people have told us that they are eager for new job opportunities and skills. That is why we are confident this is the right decision for Daunia.

“It will further increase safety and performance and help the mine remain competitive over the long term.

“We understand this decision represents some change. But it also offers a unique opportunity for people to gain new, highly valued skills that will create additional opportunities for growth into the future.”

To help prepare for Daunia’s autonomous future, it is estimated over 30,000 hours of training will be delivered, ranging from general awareness to extensive training for those operating equipment, interacting with the autonomous haul trucks, or taking on new roles.

In addition to pledging to bring autonomous trucks to Daunia and Goonyella Riverside, BHP is looking to start the roll out of autonomous trucks at its Eastern Ridge mine site in the Pilbara of Western Australia shortly.

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