Equipment manufactures, miners to dicuss autonomous mining standards
The next stage of autonomous mining could include an international set of standards that are being developed in Australia.
Daniel Roley, chairman of Swiss-based International Organisation for Standards (ISO), is working with equipment manufactures to develop the standards. The ISO has published more than 19,500 international standards for industries from technology to food safety to agriculture.
ISO is now working to develop standards for the manufacture and operation of autonomous mining technology, ABC News Australia reported.
Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group are all using autonomous technology at their Pilbara mine sites.
Equipment manufacturers Komatsu, Liebherr and Caterpillar will all take part in the safety workshops where Roley will assess what safety guidelines they already follow.
"We're still in the stage of identifying what all the risks are," he said.
"Australia really is the leader in autonomous technology, that's why we're having meetings here to gain input from the users, the regulators and people who have a lot of experience in this area.
"We are looking for information from Western Australia to benefit from its experience with autonomous mining machines as we build up our new standards on autonomous mine safety."
Roley said establishing the standards now, while the technology was still new, was critical.
"This [autonomous mining equipment] is a new technology that's just starting but will be very important in the future," he said. "Within our ISO committee we try to anticipate what are the new technologies, what are the new applications of machines, and in the early stages develop safety criteria so that the technology can be implemented safely."
Rio Tinto is the most advanced user of autonomous technology of Australia's three biggest miners.
So far it has integrated 53 autonomous trucks in operations at its Yandicoongina, Nammuldi and Hope Downs 4 mines in the Pilbara and used them to move more than 200 Mt (220 million st) of material.
BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group are following suit.
BHP's Tony Ottaviano said developing international standards for the industry was critical.
"BHP's involvement is around participating in the working group the government has set up," he said.
"It's a great initiative that the government is including industry in the formulation of its thinking around putting in standards for autonomy."
BHP currently runs nine autonomous trucks at its Jimblebar mine in the north west and plans to increase that to 12 as part of its trial.
The Department of Mines and Petroleum also has a major role to play.
The DMP's Peter O'Loughlin said the State Government would share its safety regulations with the committee to make sure the best safety guidelines were developed.
"We have developed the guidance material with the equipment manufacturers, the local mining companies and expert consultants to get to this stage," he said.
Mines Minister Bill Marmion said the Government would consider using ISO standards as part of its regulation of the industry.
"It might well be if ISO come up with some very good specifications that we might specify ISO standards," he said.
"The Department of Mines and Petroleum might say you've got to be credited to ISO standards and if you are we will be very happy with your operations."
ISO will work to develop the standards over coming months.