Australian mining company BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP) has announced its intention of deploying a fleet of robotic vehicles at the Jimblebar mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia from its new remote-operations center in Perth.
The Australian reports:
“We haven’t talked a lot about what we’re doing on these fronts because I’m not sure being first is going to be a great idea,” BHP iron ore and coal boss Marcus Randolph told The Australian.
“The real goal is to get the productivity and the cost improvements these technologies can offer. Just implementing them doesn’t do that,” he said.
“I think we are going to leapfrog them (Rio) in terms of what we’re going to get out of it.”
Around 12 to 15 automated Caterpillar trucks will be commencing operations at the iron ore mine sometime late in 2013.
Billiton’s competitor, Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO), already has 10 automated Komatsu trucks at the Junction South East mine in Pilbara, and it has plans to increase this to 150 in the next several years.
But BHP officials have stressed that the company intends to deploy automation technology in gradual increments, using it to enhance current efficiencies rather than aim for radical improvements – something that will set it apart from Rio.
BHP also hopes to set up similar operations for its coal mine in Queensland and the Escondida copper mine in Chile.