BHP introduces robot fleet in Pilbara

BHP Billiton is set to launch a fleet of robotic trucks at its newest mine in Australia's Pilbara region, the heart of the country's iron ore industry.

It follows similar initiatives to use driverless haulage trucks and other remote control systems at world number two mining firm Rio Tinto.

BHP iron ore and coal chief Marcus Randolph told The Australian: "The real goal is to get the productivity and the cost improvements these technologies can offer. Just implementing them doesn't do that. I think we are going to leapfrog them (Rio) in terms of what we're going to get out of it."

The fleet will consist of 12 to 15 Caterpillar trucks operating at its Jimblebar mine from late 2013.

The system makes it possible for operators to be in a control room on the site or even in the comfort of a city office hundreds of kilometres away.

BHP's remote operations center is located in Perth, west Australia. BHP will in time set up similar facilities for its Queensland coal mines and at its Escondida copper mine in Chile.

In September last year BHP Billiton put out a recruitment ad for a robotics executive to oversee a high-tech initiative as part of its massive $33 billion Olympic Dam expansion project, which has since been shelved.


Years away: Kloppers says BHP waiting for new technology before Olympic Dam decision >>