Autonomous
Courtesy: Rio Tinto

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has published the Guideline for the Implementation of Autonomous Systems in Mining.

The document offers a broad view of the implementation of these systems, which are being used more and more frequently due to their potential for making the mining industry safer and more productive.

Underlining the notable breadth of the publication, Christine Erikson, General Manager Improvement and Smart Business at Roy Hill, says it “covers all aspects of operations, including people, safety, technology, engineering, regulatory requirements, business process and organization models.”

She adds “The guideline considers all perspectives in the industry, making it relevant and practical in implementation.”

The guideline provides a framework for mining stakeholders to follow when establishing autonomous mining projects ranging from single autonomous vehicles and hybrid fleets to highly autonomous fleets.

It offers guidance on how stakeholders should approach autonomous mining and describes common practices.

More specifically, the publication addresses change management, developing a business case, health and safety and risk management, regulatory engagement, community and social impact, and operational readiness and deployment.

“There has been an incredible level of engagement in this project since its launch last year,” says Andrew Scott, Principal Innovator, Symbiotic Innovations and GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups, who facilitated many of the workshops.

“The industry interest reflects the growing importance and relevance of autonomous systems in mining and the industry’s need for a unified framework for mitigating risks and managing change while maximizing the value of autonomy.”

Chirag Sathe, Principal, Risk & Business Analysis Technology at BHP ¬– one of the project co-leaders alongside Glenn Johnson, Senior Mining Engineer, Technology at Teck ¬– says the guideline is 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.

This guideline would be a good reference material to everyone to look at various aspects while implementing autonomy. It is not meant to provide answers to every potential issue, but it at least may provide some guidance on what to look for.”

Erikson confirmed, stating “Roy Hill’s involvement has given greater insight into industry learnings that we have considered as part of our own autonomous projects.”

The guideline also promotes cooperation between the involved parties as a means of easing the implementation process.

“Mining companies will need to rely heavily on their technology partners,” says Andy Mulholland, GEOVIA Management Director at Dassault Systèmes.

This guideline “sets down a great framework to be able to collaborate.”
This rapidly developing area requires continued reassessment of protocol.

“As technology is moving very fast, guideline development also should keep pace with the change,” says Sathe, and so it will, with the guideline being reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

Although implementing autonomous systems creates new challenges, such as changes to the workforce and the workplace, their successful deployment adds definite value, with improved safety and efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

As more operations move toward the application of these technologies, this guideline will be an invaluable asset. As Mark O’Brien, Manager, Digital Transformation at CITIC Pacific Mining, says: “the process of development of the guideline highlighted just how much there is to factor into deciding whether to implement autonomy, whether you’re ready for it, and what the journey is going to look like. Having this all captured in a single, well-considered document is a terrific resource.”