The newly published ‘Guideline for the Implementation of Autonomous Systems in Mining' aims to offer a broad view of all aspects related to autonomous projects, with options ranging from single autonomous vehicles and hybrid fleets to highly autonomous fleets. It also gives advice on how stakeholders should approach these projects and describes common practices.
Christine Erikson, general manager for improvement and smart business at Roy Hill, said the document "covers 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," she added.
According to GMG, 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," said 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 - said 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," he noted.
"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."
Another goal of the guideline is to promote collaboration between involved parties to ease the implementation of autonomous systems.
Andy Mulholland, GEOVIA management director at Dassault Systèmes, believes miners will need the support of their technology partners and the guidelines offers a framework for this collaboration.
As a rapidly developing area of technology, automation also requires continuous protocol reassessment. Accordingly, the guideline will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
Even with the known benefits of improved safety and efficiency, there are still challenges on the road to successful deployment of autonomous systems.
Mark O'Brien, manager, digital transformation at CITIC Pacific Mining, commented: "The process of development of the guideline highlighted just how much there is to factor into deciding whether to implement autonomy, whether you're ready for it, and what the journey is going to look like. Having this all captured in a single, well-considered document is a terrific resource."