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Mining

Machine Mining

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Like much of the world around us, mining is changing fast. New, smarter and faster machines driven by artificial intelligence (AI) are taking on larger and more important roles on mine sites. So is this something to fear or embrace?

If you’re a fan of the Terminator movies and their (fictional) depiction of ‘evil AI’ in the form of Skynet trying to take over the world, you’d probably be living in fear. Thankfully that’s just a movie, and it’s a much different and better story in the real world.

The reality is that AI and automation are making mining safer and more productive. 

When the MCA wanted to find out how AI and automation will shape the future of mining to help our members prepare for it, we asked EY to look into the crystal ball. 

They mapped every job along the value chain of mining – from exploration to customer services – and the skills that were needed for each.

EY then had a close look at the many examples of applying new technology to mining from around the world – what technology did they bring in, what new skills were needed to accompany them and critically, what did this mean for workers? 

They then applied those insights to give a glimpse of the future, finding that 77 per cent of jobs in Australian mining will be enhanced or redesigned due to technology within the next five years. 

Innovative practices will enhance the performance and productivity of 42 per cent of Australian mining jobs, with a further 35 per cent of occupations being redesigned and upskilled leading to more valuable employment opportunities.  

So what does this mean? Essentially, new and different jobs. 

Automation will create the opportunity for reskilling and work in new areas. These enhanced and new skills will help create more productive and safer mines. 

Training will help make jobs such as metal fitters, machinists, building and engineering technical and experts in electronics and mechatronic future ready. 

For example, a shot-firer working on a drilling team will have the opportunity in Australia’s future minerals workforce to use drone technology to monitor automated rigs.

Modern mines will be focused on using technology to work smarter and safer. 

Mining companies have been rolling out AI and automation at their sites across the country. Importantly, it has not meant job losses.

Recently when BHP announced they will be progressively introducing autohaul trucks at their Goonyella coal mine in Queensland, they confirmed there would be no employee redundancies, either forced or voluntary.

In fact, the announcement would see 50 new roles created on site at Goonyella. BHP is investing millions in Central Queensland schools, TAFES and universities to make the Bowen Basin and the local workforce a strong focus for mining technology and skills.

On the other side of the country at BHP’s Jimblebar mine, autonomous haulage has reduced significant events involving trucks by 87 per cent, and reduced haulage costs by 20 per cent.

Rio Tinto is also embracing AI and laying claim to the world’s largest robot – an autonomous train in WA. Thankfully they describe their robots as nice ‘more C3PO than The Terminator’!

Using AI, Rio Tinto runs a 1,700km railway in the Pilbara, safely and efficiently moving iron ore from 16 of their mines to their shipping terminals. About a quarter of their trucks are also autonomous and they’re planning to expand their fleet.

Automation and AI should be embraced as a new tool to improve mining – making it safer, more productive and more profitable. 

Australian mining will continue to take advantage of innovation, technology and new ways of working to create high-paying, high skilled jobs in a safer environment.

Minerals Council of Australia

Equipment

Good. Better. Best.

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Hitachi’s range of mining excavators is a dominant force in Australia. With six machines in their mining line up, they have a solution for every size and type of mine, from the versatile 120t EX1200-7 excavator through to their EX8000-6 weighing in at a whopping 837t.

Available in backhoe and face shovel configurations, these machines are highly regarded and operate globally. Instantly recognisable in their distinctive Hitachi orange, you’re most likely to find the EX2600, EX3600 and EX5600 backhoes working in the Valley.

Sitting in the sweet spot of Hitachi’s diggers is the EX3600. A stalwart of the Australian mining industry, Hitachi has deployed locally over 100 of these 370t excavators since launching the EX3600-5. Now in its third iteration, the Japanese manufactured EX3600-7 is Hitachi’s latest generation machine built upon industry feedback and the Company’s learnings in the field to produce more fuel efficient product for customers.

In a development immediately broadening the appeal of this excavator, miners now have an option of power plant with both the Cummins QSKTA60 or MTU 12V4000 on offer.

Combined with improvements in the machine’s hydraulic system, operators can reasonably expect reductions in fuel consumption between 4 – 7% compared with the previous model (the EX3600-6 with Cummins engine configuration). Further, intelligent management systems including main pump electric regulators on each individually controlled hydraulic pump as well as, a hydraulic regeneration circuit, permit this machine reduced pump demand, enhancing engine power, lowering fuel consumption and increasing productivity.

All too aware of the detrimental effects of dust and moisture ingress, Hitachi has introduced slit-less solid conduit harnesses and junction boxes. In the instance of damage, electrical harnesses between junction boxes can be replaced individually, ultimately reducing maintenance time and cost. Likewise, the cab riser now features a pressuriser system to minimise dust infiltration and extend the service life of electronic components within.

Improving upon a product that customers already like, the hydraulic hoses between the boom and main piping have been rearranged from an arch to underslung configuration removing the need for clamps, reducing deflection and increasing reliability. And I could go on, with features too numerous to contemplate in this article.

Find out more today by contacting your local Hitachi representative or go online at https://hitachicm.com.au/products/excavators.

THANKS TO COMPONENTS ONLY, OUR HEAVY EQUIPMENT EXPERTS

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Mining

NSW Leads Nation with New Facility

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Australia’s only independent underground mine explosives testing facility has opened at Freeman’s Waterhole NSW.

Paving the way for improvements in mine safety and innovation in the mining industry, the new testing facility is under the control of the NSW Resources Regulator’s Mine Safety Technology Centre (RR).

The facility, which is discreetly built on the site of a quarry to reduce impact on the surrounding environment, will be used to determine if locally made explosives are viable and meet vital safety requirements to protect the wellbeing of workers.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro recently launched the first round of explosives testing at the new facility and stated that it positions NSW as the nation’s leader in mine safety development.

“Currently, there are few explosives that can be used in underground coal mines and these kinds of explosives have a very short shelf life, they don’t travel well and need to be developed and tested locally,” Mr Barilaro said.

The RR is responsible for regulating the mining industry in NSW, which includes work, health safety matters through to environmental issues such as mine rehabilitation.

Anthony Keon, Executive Director of the Resources Regulator said the new testing facility is critical to ensure that people can have confidence in the materials and explosives being used underground. “The establishment of this facility will ensure that we’re not stifling innovation,” said Anthony.

“It will give industry and explosive manufacturers access to this test which has previously been unavailable for almost decades.

“There are limited facilities of this type throughout the world and because of the limited shelf life on these products we really need something locally based in order to open up those opportunities for NSW companies and for the NSW mining industry.”

“What the test is trying to do is ensure that explosives when used properly don’t ignite methane; and we’ve seen through numerous incidents throughout the world and even recently in Queensland the ramifications of when there isn’t an ignition of methane.”

Geoff Slater, Manager at Mine Safety Technology Centre said the development of explosives specifically for underground coal mines started back in the1890s at the Greenwich Naval Facility London. Early tests used a small bore cannon and this influenced majority of test facilities since that time.

“The facility at Freemans Waterhole uses concrete culverts and water bags to reduce the noise emissions during testing,” said Geoff.

“Extensive computer simulations were used to determine the best optimum use of the water.”

Test rounds at the facility will be scheduled to meet the needs of industry, at up to two to three times per year, restricted to work hours on weekdays.

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Community

Students Have A Yarn

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St James’ Muswellbrook welcomes a newly constructed yarning circle thanks to the generosity of Malabar Resources.

Fully funded by Malabar, the Yarning Circle will give students and teachers at St James’ Primary School in Muswellbrook the opportunity to sit together and enhance their understanding of Indigenous culture.

A Yarning Circle is an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and a harmonious and collaborative way of communicating. It promotes respectful relationships and provides an open environment to share cultural knowledge.

In August Malabar designed and installed the Yarning Circle which involved the placement of more than 5000kg of sandstone blocks.

Malabar’s Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community, Donna McLaughlin said, “We are delighted to continue building our relationship with St James’ and other schools in the region by providing resources that help their specific needs.”

“We look forward to seeing the Yarning Circle develop as native plants and artwork are added to the space, which will further facilitate cultural learning and understanding.”

The new space was enthusiastically received by students. “Thank you for this amazing and respectful area where we can teach others about our customs and traditions,” said year 6 student Tushawn.

St James’ Aboriginal Education Teacher, Tania Thompson expressed how thankful they are to have a designated place for our CREST Crew to meet and yarn.

“When we meet as a whole group from K-6 around the Yarning Circle, it gives students the opportunity to bond, form strong ties, and unite as one mob,” she said.

“Communicating, sharing and problem solving as a team are some of the extremely important life skills that we refine when meeting for Yarning Circle.”

“We learn to listen to one another and to respect the ideas and opinions of others regardless of their age, as we all have wisdom to share.”

St James’ will use the Yarning Circle as an extension of their classrooms and teaching practice to foster knowledge of Indigenous culture by engaging both indigenous and non-indigenous students and teachers.

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