The WA resources industry is looking to the latest technological advancements to usher in the future of mining. The transition to driverless vehicles is underway, as the industry seeks to continually improve productivity and working conditions. By the end of 2019, there will be an estimated fleet of almost 150 autonomous haul trucks based in the Pilbara.

A self-driven tomorrow

It seems that the future is indeed automated. Most people are aware of automatic doors, elevators, escalators, coffee machines and vacuum cleaners. But the next chapter in automation promises to be the most exciting.

With new driverless technology soon to revolutionise our roads, the mining industry is implementing the latest automated innovations to drive things forward. Chris Salisbury, Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore chief executive, believes that these changes are the key to improving the way mining works.

“Rapid advances in technology are continuing to revolutionise the way large-scale mining is undertaken across the globe.”
–Chris Salisbury, Rio Tinto

A newly skilled workforce

With the new automated system, trucks are operated by a central controller, rather than a driver. These trucks use GPS to automatically navigate roads and intersections –  and the system knows the actual locations, speeds and directions of all vehicles at all times.

The industry Is changing as a result of this technology – and a new workforce is needed to keep things running smoothly. Technicians now require a new set of skills to service the autonomous trucks, specialising in the maintenance and repair of these new machines. The AI components also need experts who specialise in software engineering and mechanical engineering.

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Leading the way in WA

In recent years, the number of self-driving trucks at Western Australian mines has been rapidly growing. Fortescue Metals is increasing the number of driverless trucks at its Solomon and Chichester sites. BHP is also doubling its autonomous fleet at Jimblebar, also in the Pilbara.

Today, Rio Tinto has almost 90 driverless haul trucks operating across its Pilbara iron ore network, and this number is set to grow. The new Silvergrass project is completely powered by autonomous trucks.

In the coming years, autonomous truck fleets are set to expand further – to help Western Australian mines improve safety, build capacity and remain globally competitive. By the end of 2019, there will be an estimated fleet of almost 150 autonomous haul trucks based in the Pilbara.

With these latest innovations, the WA mining industry is leading the way with autonomous technology. This change means new specialised jobs in the industry, and a safer, more efficient tomorrow.