Anglo considers autonomous trucks for Dawson

Anglo American is investigating the feasibility of an autonomous haulage system for a portion of its truck fleet at its open-cut Dawson coal mine in Queensland, Australia
Anglo considers autonomous trucks for Dawson Anglo considers autonomous trucks for Dawson Anglo considers autonomous trucks for Dawson Anglo considers autonomous trucks for Dawson Anglo considers autonomous trucks for Dawson

Anglo American has started a study to determine the feasibility of AHS at Dawson

Lou Caruana

The detailed study to replace its 23 trucks and introduce an autonomous haulage system (AHS) at Dawson will be finalised towards the end of this year, at which point a decision will be made about whether to proceed.

While automated haulage systems have been in use at other mining operations for many years, the technology has now progressed to the stage where Anglo American is assessing the feasibility of using it in open-pit coal mining.

Anglo American Metallurgical Coal CEO Tyler Mitchelson said the study was part of its FutureSmart Mining approach, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining's major challenges.

"Anglo American has been at the forefront of embracing innovation to drive the next level of mine performance," he said.

"This study will focus on whether an autonomous haulage system has economic and practical application for our Dawson mine, in support of its journey to become a safer and more sustainable mine."

The timing of the Dawson study is aligned to a key decision on whether to undertake major overhauls on the ageing Caterpillar 797 truck fleet or replace them.

"Our Dawson Mine has a fleet of 23 Cat 797 trucks that are due for either a major overhaul or replacement, so it's an opportune time to consider the feasibility of AHS for the mine," Mitchelson said.        

"We are running a process in parallel to assess potential AHS providers.

"The accelerating pace of technological innovation, particularly in the digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence areas, are opening up opportunities for the mining sector to be safer, more productive and sustainable."

Mitchelson said while no decisions had been made regarding the feasibility of the project, Anglo American was conscious of the need to minimise the impact on its workforce.

"We've informed our workforce that if the project proceeds, we would work through redeployment options for impacted employees, and there would also be new roles created, leading to training opportunities," he said.

"We also understand the importance of locally based employment to our communities, and we have reinforced to our community stakeholders that if the project proceeds, our intent is to protect local jobs and continue to undertake measures to encourage people to live locally."

Mitchelson said people were at the centre of the company's strategy and he recognised the need to support the workforce to have the skills to transition to mining operations with higher levels of automation and other technologies.

"We will continue to engage with our employees and their representatives, along with other stakeholders, as the study progresses," he said.