Western Australia has broken new ground by establishing the world’s first autonomous vehicle mining safety codes of practice earlier this year.
Laws and regulations surrounding mining technology are often slow to keep-up with advancements, but now Western Australia is forging ahead in the area of automation with the implementation of the new safety codes of practice which were developed over 18 months together by the State Government’s Department of Mines & Petroleum and an industry working collective.
These autonomous mining safety codes came into existence 1 year after an incident at BHP’s Jimblebar iron ore mine.
A control room operator at the mine programmed a truck to turn at a pre-defined intersection. The intersection existed in the control system, but workers could not know of the truck’s pre-determined route as it was not physically marked, or signposted in the real-world. As the truck’s turning direction became apparent, a manned water cart travelling in the other direction tried to evade the massive vehicle, but it was too late. The truck’s speed and slow response time ensured a collision occurred.
According to the WA Department of Mines & Petroleum the change management procedures for planning and ascribing roads to trucks through the control system were sub-par.
1. Put safety first.
2. Aid mining companies in setting-up and running their own autonomous mining systems.
3. Ensure companies steer-clear of any more autonomous vehicle accidents into the future.
“The code includes desired safety outcomes, legislative provisions, applicable Australian and international standards, project management information, and identification and mitigation of potential risks,” informed Graham James, DMP acting director mines safety.
When performing mining site audits & inspections, inspectors can use these new codes to evaluate system compliance. If any gaps are pin-pointed, the inspector can then use the codes to instruct on improvements, setting-out an evolving course of action.