The world’s biggest miner, BHP (NYSE: BHP), this week began testing two new automated shiploaders at its Port Hedland export facility in Western Australia’s Pilbara.
In what is a world first, 3D laser scan technology has been used in the A$50 million ($36m) project, which will fully automate eight shiploaders by 2023.
The eight shiploaders – at BHP’s Nelson Point and Finucane Island operations – are responsible for loading about 1500 bulk ore carriers every year, exporting approximately 280 million tonnes of iron ore to global customers in 2021.
The project is expected to enable an increase in production of more than one million tonnes each year, through the combination of greater precision, reduced spillage, faster load times, and equipment optimisation, the company said.
“This is an exciting next step in WA Iron Ore’s autonomous journey and is expected to deliver significant safety, production and cost improvements as well as new job and development opportunities for our people,” BHP’s Asset President, WA Iron Ore, Brandon Craig said in the statement.
“Automating our shiploaders will improve safety for our people and allow us to load our ships more precisely and efficiently, including through automatic adjustments for weather, hazards and other variable port conditions,” he said.
The shiploaders will transition towards becoming fully automated later this year. Once completed, BHP said the ship loading operations will be operated from the Integrated Remote Operations Centre in Perth.