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Anglo American is looking into replacing 23 trucks with an Autonomous Haulage System at its Dawson coal mine, near Moura in Central Queensland.

A study to determine the feasibility of the driverless fleet is under way and is due to be finalised towards the end of this year, when the company said a decision would be made about whether to proceed.

The study is linked to the fact the mine must soon make a decision on whether to undertake major overhauls on Dawson’s ageing CAT797 fleet or replace them.

Chief executive officer of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, said while no decisions had been made regarding the feasibility of the project, Anglo American was conscious of the need to minimise the impact on its workforce.

“We’ve informed our workforce that if the project proceeds, we would work through redeployment options for impacted employees and there would also be new roles created, leading to training opportunities,” Mr Mitchelson said.

“We also understand the importance of locally-based employment to our communities, and we have reinforced to our community stakeholders that if the project proceeds, our intent is to protect local jobs and continue to undertake measures to encourage people to live locally.”

While automated haulage systems have been in use at other mining operations for many years, the technology has now progressed to the stage where Anglo American is assessing the feasibility of operationalising it in open-pit coal mining.

Mr Mitchelson said the study was part of Anglo American’s FutureSmart MiningTM approach, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s major challenges.

“Anglo American has been at the forefront of embracing innovation to drive the next level of mine performance. This study will focus on whether an Autonomous Haulage System has economic and practical application for our Dawson Mine, in support of its journey to become a safer and more sustainable mine.”

Anglo American operates five metallurgical coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, along with additional joint venture interests.

Anglo considers autonomous fleet at Dawson