Driverless trucks put jobs at risk

Daryna ZadvirnaNarrogin Observer
A well-loaded dump truck.
Camera IconA well-loaded dump truck. Credit: Kalgoorlie Miner

Boddington’s copper-gold mine could soon go down the automation road, according to US gold giant Newmont GoldCorp.

Newmont GoldCorp announced it had advanced its driverless truck trials at the Boddington mine last week, which would affect 39 trucks if successful.

Boddington Shire president Martyn Glynn said it was an inevitable part of the industry and the community’s workers would have to adapt.

“We have to do the best we can with what’s been presented to us,” he said.

“Only around 60-70 jobs are suspected to be at risk and I think within that there will only be 15 or so from our community.

“It doesn’t mean anyone is happy with the loss of employment and it doesn’t mean anyone is happy to see automation come, but I think everyone recognises it’s just a part of the development of that industry.”

Mr Glynn said since the trials were in an early phase, there was no guarantee the driverless trucks would be feasible.

But mineral economist, geophysicist and business management consultant Allan Trench said there was no real reason for autonomous haulage to be any less successful here than in the Pilbara.

“Regardless of the commodity, it’s essentially a large-scale, rock-moving exercise — whether it’d be iron ore or gold,” he said.

“For global competitiveness, you have to be able to run faster, the problem is everyone is getting more efficient. So my view is that autonomous trucks in the gold industry are unavoidable, particularly for large-scale open pits like Boddington.”

Mr Trench said it was unfortunate some workers might get displaced but he hoped the company was “smart enough not to lose its corporate knowledge”.

“Hopefully it won’t be just a brutal ‘thank you very much, goodbye’ exercise for those truck drivers,” he said.

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