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 frequently at mines around the world due to their potential for making the mining industry safer and more productive.
Major mining companies such as BHP and Barrick Gold, as well as others, worked with equipment suppliers and universities to craft the guidelines that provides a framework for mining companies to follow when considering autonomous operations.
Christine Erikson, General Manager Improvement and Smart Business at Roy Hill, said the document “covers all aspects of operations, including people, safety, technology, engineering, regulatory requirements, business process and organization models.” She added “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, the GMG said in a statement.
“There has been an incredible level of engagement in this project since its launch last year,” said 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 ¬said 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.”
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 and the guideline will be 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.