BHP, along with its partners Caterpillar and mining contractor Thiess, has completed the first million meters of autonomous drilling at the company’s Mount Arthur South coal mine in New South Wales.

Three fully autonomous Cat MD-series drills, each using the Cat MineStar Command autonomous drill system, have been running around the clock to reach the target.

According to WesTrac technology solutions manager Nakia Brewer, the successful deployment of Cat-built autonomous drills is a testament to a solid technology-driven partnership.

“It is crucial to clearly understand the problem you’re trying to solve when implementing new technology. In this case, the goal was to reduce operating costs and increase consistency of drilling,” he explained.

“Thiess’s world-leading approach to technology involves understanding the problem statement and using technology to solve it.”

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The trio of companies began the program in 2019 when a single operator was able to remotely run three drill rigs simultaneously.

From there, things have naturally deepened.

Since the program began, Thiess has measured a 20% improvement in drilling performance and an 8% decline in fuel use.

In the interim, Thiess also upskilled over 30 workers at Mount Arthur South to operate autonomous equipment and provided autonomous mining systems training to over 500 employees.

Germany has Eyes for Aussie Rare Earths

In an attempt to reduce its reliance on Chinese imports, Germany has turned to Australia’s powerhouse mining sector for support.

In particular, the quickly developing lithium cohort.

During a recent visit to Australia, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that the country seeks to diversify its lithium supply chain following political turmoil caused by a reliance on Russian fuel during the Ukraine conflict.

Learning its lesson from the over-reliance on one nation for supply, Germany now hopes to import lithium directly from Australia, eliminating the Chinese intermediaries so prevalent in the market.

“You export lithium to China for processing before we import it again,” Baerbock said.

“It would be smart to import lithium directly from Australia not only for diversification but also to strengthen ties between democracies and free markets.”

In February, Madeline King, Australia’s Federal Resources Minister, urged European markets to source their critical minerals from ethical and sustainable sources instead of more dubious ones.

“We’re a reliable supplier of commodities that are not subject to undue interference or restraint from anyone, but particularly the government,” she said.

Europe has been a strong driver of the electric vehicle market. If other international markets follow Germany’s lead in diversifying their supply chains with Australian lithium, it will set the stage for a bright future for the commodity.

Fortescue Goes Green for Hydrogen in Arizona

Fortescue Metals has made good on its hydrogen ambitions, breaking ground on its first green hydrogen facility in Arizona, USA.

Executive Chair Andrew Forrest was on hand to cut the ribbon at the site alongside local, state, and tribal leaders.

Over 2000 jobs are expected to be created during the construction of the 150-acre site, with an additional 400 jobs created during operation.

The aptly named Arizona Hydrogen project could produce up to 11,000 tonnes of green hydrogen yearly.

Fortescue believes the new facility may add $60 billion to the state’s economy and a further $9 million in taxes and royalties.

Mr Forrest stated that the United States has made “significant progress in attracting global investment in green hydrogen and decarbonisation projects, such as Fortescue’s Arizona Hydrogen facility powered by solar and wind energy.”

“Fortescue is unashamedly a first-mover in this space; the world needs us to move quickly,” he added.

Fortescue will also build a green hydrogen facility in Oman.

The hydrogen project is currently in the feasibility stage. It is expected to involve the construction of up to 4.5GW of wind and solar renewable energy resources. 

These resources will power electrolysers, potentially producing up to 200,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year.


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