BHP, Barrick Gold, Teck Resources and Antofagasta are a few of the major mining companies that, together with equipment suppliers and universities, have helped develop global guidelines on automation.
The document, published this week by Canada-based Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG), outlines a framework for miners to follow when considering adding autonomous equipment to their operations. It also provides a maturity model for companies to emulate as they expand the scope of their unmanned fleets.
The publication divides operations into six levels, from zero (entirely manual operations) to five (fully autonomous operations), and assists in the preparation of a business case for autonomous mining, depending on level and stakeholder needs.
Its advice includes guidance for the slow, phased or fast implementation of autonomous systems, depending on stakeholder needs.
BHP principal, risk and business analysis technology, Chirag Sathe, said the outlined recommendations are 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,” said Sathe, who also is one of the project’s co-leaders. “This guideline would be a good reference material.”
Although implementing autonomous systems creates new challenges, such as changes to the workforce and the workplace, the authors of the new guideline believe if successfully deployed, the technology adds definite value, with improved safety and efficiency and lower maintenance costs.