Diversification the important

Automation on mine websites has been touted as a approach to enhance security, effectivity and productiveness however there are issues the expansion of autonomous mining will negatively influence employees and cities that depend on the business.

Main miners have been desperate to undertake autonomous know-how within the Pilbara area, in Western Australia’s north-west.

From March 2023 Roy Hill plans to increase its autonomous haulage system, changing haul vehicles to driverless operations, to change into the world’s largest single automated mine web site.

Shire of East Pilbara President Anthony Middleton mentioned his council understood the necessity for automation, however there have been issues about what it will imply for smaller cities.

“It’ll have an effect on them immensely,” he mentioned.

“We at all times need to see a extra everlasting residential neighborhood.

“That’s what contributes to the social cloth, the vibrancy and livability of regional places.”

Some Newman locals fear automation will result in extra inhabitants declines.(ABC Pilbara: Louise Miolin)

The city of Newman, which is closely reliant on surrounding mines, recorded a small drop in inhabitants between the 2016 census and the 2021 survey, of round 300 folks.

Whereas there are a lot of components at play, some locals are involved that automation might additional influence inhabitants numbers. 

Greg Busson is the joint secretary of the Western Mining Employees Alliance, which advocates for mine employees within the Pilbara.

“Governments have invested billions of {dollars} into these communities to make them liveable and now we’re transferring the roles away,” he mentioned.

“What jobs are there for the youngsters of the longer term in these communities?

“We have been contacting firms and getting undertakings for the employees concerning their future employment, in search of alternate jobs and duties inside the firm for these folks.”

Mr Busson mentioned retraining employees was necessary.

“The chance to retrain these folks to allow them to take up a few of these different jobs and stay locally doing one thing totally different,” he mentioned.

“As they approve a few of these automation hubs, we ought to be taking a look at putting them within the communities the place these folks come from in order that there are jobs for the longer term.”

Automation essential, researcher says

Dr Fiona Haslam-McKenzie is a Winthrop Professor on the College of Western Australia and has spent a lot of her tutorial life analysing the socio-economic results of mines on regional cities.

She mentioned whereas automation might have an effect on mining cities, it was essential for the business to capitalise on Western Australia’s mining increase.

“The size of mining in Australia has escalated exponentially over the past 25 years,” she mentioned.

“We want automation as a result of if we’ll proceed the dimensions and the tempo of change, then one thing has to offer.

“And clearly, know-how gives most of the options.”

A woman with short blonde hair stands in a green university garden wearing a grey top and scarfe.
Professor Fiona Haslam McKenzie says automation permits firms to satisfy demand.(ABC Information: Eliza Borrello)

WA’s peak sources sector consultant physique, the Chamber of Minerals and Power (CME), mentioned there would at all times be a necessity for folks in mining. 

“Even the place we see growing use of automation, there are nonetheless actually necessary jobs stuffed by people who assist that course of,” a spokesman mentioned.

“There are positively new strains of labor being created within the fields of programming automated know-how, analysing the information that’s produced by its operation and making key enterprise selections on that.

“The precise areas wherein we’re seeing extra automation are these the place it is tough to supply native folks to do jobs and the place security is enhanced by transferring folks from that area or job – examples being truck or prepare drivers.”

An excavator loading a pink iron ore truck in the Pilbara's red dirt.
Roy Hill will convert its standard haul vehicles to a driverless operation from March.(Provided: Roy Hill)

The spokesman mentioned CME member firms had a robust deal with attracting and retaining native workforces wherever they might.

“There are some important challenges related to that, together with extreme shortages in housing and different providers like childcare in regional areas, that are exacerbating present tightness within the labour market,” the assertion mentioned.

“This makes rising residential workforces harder however our member firms proceed to work with communities and different key stakeholders to seek out options to those points and make dwelling regionally extra possible and engaging for employees.”

Lowering the consequences

Mr Middleton mentioned within the Shire of East Pilbara, adapting to the adjustments and diversifying ability units to encourage progress within the area was key.

“We’re hoping from a council viewpoint that firms strongly assist these folks which can be required for automation which can be dwelling and residing in Newman versus FIFO,” he mentioned.

“It is one thing that we, and all native governments throughout the Pilbara which have mining, should work by.”

Leave a Comment