WA’s booming Pilbara region will soon host the world’s largest fully autonomous mine.

The Roy Hill site, located south and inland of Port Hedland, is shifting its entire conventional haul truck fleet of 96 to driverless operation.

With iron ore reserves of more than 2.4 billion tonnes, Roy Hill is on track to produce 55 million tonnes of product per year, becoming one of Australia’s largest mines. 

After exploring autonomous operators over the past three years, the Roy Hill Board selected mining equipment giant Epiroc and automation specialist ASI Mining.

As we speak, a portion of the company’s converted haul trucks is “running around the clock” in an autonomous testing zone alongside excavators and ancillary vehicles at intersections, waste dumps and load areas.

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

Introduced partly in response to a very tight labour market, Roy Hill hopes to see the project and autonomous haul truck numbers grow steadily from March through 2023.

The Road to Autonomous Haulage Down Under

Driverless haul truck technology is undergoing a quantum leap.

And as one of the leading countries in developing and deploying autonomous mining trucks, Australia is at the cutting edge.

Multiple mining companies across the country have been using autonomous haulage technology for several years, noticing significant benefits in improved efficiency, safety, and cost savings.

Rio Tinto has used autonomous haul trucks at its iron ore mines in Western Australia since 2008; it now has over 150 autonomous trucks operating. 

BHP Billiton is another mining giant to test and deploy autonomous technology at its iron ore mines in WA.

Renowned as a mining innovator across a broad range of applications and with a firmly-established mining industry, several Australian companies are also developing and supplying autonomous equipment for export.

So how do autonomous haul trucks work?

To do their job, autonomous mining trucks are equipped with various technology.

Some of the critical components include the following:

  • Sensors: including GPS, lidar, and cameras, allowing them to navigate and avoid obstacles independently. 
  • Advanced control systems: Like those based on artificial intelligence, to optimise their performance and make real-time decisions. 
  • Communication techniques: Using wireless communication systems, like Wi-Fi and cellular networks, to communicate with other vehicles and a central control system. 
  • Power systems: Autonomous haul trucks are typically electric or hybrid, allowing more extended autonomy and reducing the carbon footprint.

An outside concern for miners revolves around Cybersecurity, as a heavy reliance on technology and communication systems makes them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. 

Mining companies have been encouraged to implement robust cybersecurity measures to keep trucks secure against potential threats.

In addition to improving efficiency and safety, autonomous haul trucks can also help to reduce labour costs, minimising the need for human operators in notoriously dangerous environments.


It’s no surprise that with the Pilbara and its mining companies developing so quickly, the region should host the world’s biggest autonomous mine site.

Roy Hill plans to convert or replace its truck fleet to fully autonomous starting this year.

After a years-long investigation, the company will enlist the help of global mining equipment and solutions provider Epiroc and the automation specialist ASI Mining for the project. 

According to the company:

“Roy Hill aims to use innovative solutions to meet the challenges of an extremely tight labour market while supporting our people with retraining and helping them transition into other critical roles of the business.”

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