Nov 20, 2020

Safety and health focus in automation research

Safety and health focus in automation research

BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) and Whitehaven Coal are stumping up more than half a million dollars for University of Queensland research on automation in the mining industry.

The funding will support several projects as part of the Human Aspects of Mining Automation research program developed by the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) and involving researchers from across UQ.

The institute said BMA was contributing $300,000 and Whitehaven Coal was contributing $225,000 to a multi-year collaborative research consortium initially focused on four topics: risk analysis; human-centred design; training; and health.

UQ Human Aspects of Automation program leader Professor Robin Burgess-Limerick said the funding would ensure automation would improve safety as well as productivity.

Professor Robin Burgess-Limerick.

“Australia is at the forefront in the automation of mining equipment, with approximately 40 per cent of all automated fleet installations globally,” Professor Burgess-Limerick said.

“It’s likely that automation will be a net benefit for safety and health because people are being removed from hazardous areas, however, to ensure that is the case, systems need to be designed with people’s capabilities and limitations in mind.”

BMA head of production Frans Knox said that this research would help BMA further build on its health and safety processes.

“Our workforce is fundamental to mine automation and their safety remains our number one priority. This includes their health – both mental and physical – so it is critical that we invest in understanding how our workforce can interact with these new systems in the safest and healthiest way,” he said.

Autonomous haulage is in use at BMA’s Goonyella Riverside mine and will soon be introduced at Daunia.

“We are seeing some early positive signs from our Goonyella Riverside operation who are at the beginning of their automation journey. Their performance to date continues to build further confidence in the safety case for autonomous haulage,” Mr Knox said.

To read more about MISHC’s Human Aspects of Mining Automation Program visit here.