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Mining giant approves automating large machines

BHP terminal
BHP terminal

A multinational resources company will invest in autonomous bulk material handling solutions.

BHP recently committed $50 million towards automating eight shiploaders by 2023. Two “world first” prototypes will use three-dimensional laser scan technology, which is typically used in self-driving cars, at both the Nelson Point and Finucane Island port operations.

Initial trials will examine safety, production and cost benefits from loading about 1500 bulk ore carriers a year, carrying about 280 million tonnes (Mt) of iron ore, without human operators. The proponent hopes removing employees from cabins will increase annual production by more than 1Mt due to greater precision, reduced spillage, faster load times and equipment optimisation.

Affected staff will be redeployed and a further 12 new positions will be created at the Brookfield Place Tower integrated remote operations centre in downtown Perth.

“Automating our shiploaders will improve safety for our people and allow us to load our ships more precisely and efficiently, including through automatic adjustments for weather, hazards, and other variable port conditions,” WA iron ore asset president Brandon Craig said according to Seven West Media.

Meanwhile, BHP’s oil and gas division recently completed a US$1 billion (A$1.4B) merger with Woodside Energy. The enlarged entity is touted to be ready for competing on an international scale.

“The merger of our petroleum assets with Woodside creates a global energy company with the scale, and [an] opportunity to help supply the energy needed for global growth and development, in a rapidly decarbonising world,” BHP CEO Mike Henry said in a public statement.

“BHP’s world class portfolio is weighted towards commodities which support economic growth and have decarbonisation upside and, combined with our operational excellence, will underpin attractive returns and long-term value growth.”

Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill described the deal as one of the most significant in her employer’s 67-year history.

“Woodside begins its journey as a global company, becoming a bigger supplier of the energy that the world needs right now and will continue to demand in the future. The merger delivers a diverse portfolio of quality operating assets, plus a suite of growth opportunities across oil, gas and new energy,” she said.

“We believe the completion of the merger will enable Woodside to play a more significant role in the energy transition that is imperative as we respond to climate change while ensuring reliable and affordable supplies of energy to a growing and aspirational global population.”

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AMSJ April 2022