Autonomous systems in mining are being used more frequently due to their potential for making the mining industry safer and more productive.


Autonomous systems are shaping the future of mining

In response to the shift, Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has published the Guideline for the Implementation of Autonomous Systems in Mining, which offers a broad view of the implementation of these systems.

Underlining the notable breadth of the publication, Christine Erikson, General Manager Improvement and Smart Business at Roy Hill, says that the guidelines cover all aspects of operations, including people, safety, technology, engineering, regulatory requirements, business process and organisation models.

“The guideline considers all perspectives in the industry, making it relevant and practical in implementation,” adds Ms Erikson.

The guideline provides a framework for mining stakeholders to follow when establishing autonomous mining projects ranging from single autonomous vehicles and hybrid fleets to highly autonomous fleets. It offers guidance on how stakeholders should approach autonomous mining and describes common practices. More specifically, the publication addresses change management, developing a business case, health and safety and risk management, regulatory engagement, community and social impact, and operational readiness and deployment.

“There has been an incredible level of engagement in this project since its launch last year,” says Andrew Scott, Principal Innovator, Symbiotic Innovations and GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups, who facilitated many of the workshops.

“The industry interest reflects the growing importance and relevance of autonomous systems in mining and the industry’s need for a unified framework for mitigating risks and managing change while maximising the value of autonomy.”

Chirag Sathe, Principal, Risk & Business Analysis Technology at BHP ­– one of the project co-leaders alongside Glenn Johnson, Senior Mining Engineer, Technology at Teck ­– says the guideline is relevant even to those who have already embraced autonomy

“I would say that even though some mining companies have implemented autonomy, it hasn’t been a smooth ride and there are a number of lessons learned. This guideline would be a good reference material to everyone to look at various aspects while implementing autonomy. It is not meant to provide answers to every potential issue, but it at least may provide some guidance on what to look for.”

Erikson confirmed, stating that Roy Hill’s involvement has given greater insight into industry learnings that were considered as part of its own autonomous projects.

The guideline also promotes cooperation between the involved parties as a means of easing the implementation process. “

Although implementing autonomous systems creates new challenges, such as changes to the workforce and the workplace, their successful deployment adds definite value, with improved safety and efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

This rapidly developing area requires continued reassessment of protocol, with GMG intending to review and update the guideline on a regular basis.

GMG launches teleportation project

Quantum entanglement is becoming more and more advanced and cutting-edge teleportation devices are being developed to help mines become more productive and cost-effective.

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) believes that there is, however, a need for industry alignment on teleportation and the data concerns associated with it.

Teleportation technologies can help solve many logistical challenges that mines face. Some of the world’s most valuable resources are located in isolated areas. Until now, this has been addressed by having a fly-in/fly-out workforce and developing remote operation centres, which both present significant challenges. These technologies will also reduce the time industry leaders spend travelling and will help them bring maximum value to their companies.

“While it still seems like futuristic technology,” says GMG Chair Michelle Ash, “teleportation has the potential to change how the industry works. This guideline project will help to align the industry as we move into a teleportation-enabled future.”

There are also challenges when it comes to teleportation. All human attributes need to be recorded and transmitted, raising several data ownership, privacy, and cybersecurity concerns. Developing a common language and establishing best practices are also necessary to prevent teleportation-related accidents.

Doc White, Mining Teleportation Innovation Lead at SHORT Mining will be leading the project.

“We’re excited about how teleportation can reduce our costs and also reduce employee burnout,” says Mr white.

“But since these technologies are so new, our efforts have been primarily trial and error, so we need to move forward together.”

“The human factor is key,” says Scott Beamie of Teleportation Achievement, Realisation and Development Infrastructure Solutions.

“People still think of these technologies as the stuff of science fiction, so we need to cut through the hype and focus on practical solutions.”

*Article published in the July-September 2019 issue of The Asia Miner

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