Thursday, July 4, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Embracing Remote Control Dozer Operations At Bowen Basin Mine

Dozer operators at Anglo American’s Capcoal Complex are in training to embrace remote control technology to improve operator safety on site.

The operation, near Middlemount, is trialling a remote-controlled stockpile dozer ahead of plans to retrofit the entire fleet.

Anglo American, which operates five steelmaking coal mines across the Bowen Basin, will reduce in-cab dozer exposure time by 45,000 to 75,000 hours a year once the technology is fully deployed across all sites.

The remote control dozer trial has been named a finalist in the innovation and safety categories at the Queensland Mining Awards held in Mackay in July. The project has also been named a finalist in the innovation category at the Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference awards on the Gold Coast in August.

Coal Handling and Processing Plant dozer operators are the first to gain experience operating teleremote dozers as part of a pilot program to reduce exposure to concealed stockpile voids. The pilot includes the retrofit of a stockpile dozer with the latest Wi-Fi-enabled technology to set up connectivity between the machine and the operator chair in the control centre.

Capcoal general manager George Karooz said it was the first time the remote control dozer technology would be used at Anglo American’s Australian operations.

“Upskilling our workers in this new technology is paramount to its success because their expertise is irreplaceable, even when the work is done remotely,” he said.

“In pursuit of safety and efficiency, the mining industry has been a constant driver of innovation for generations.

“Operating our fleet of dozers from a safe distance will reduce the number of hours in the cab and fully remove our operators from the dozer seat in what is another significant advancement in autonomous mining.”

Acting automation operations manager Matthew Wakeford said operators were being trained in how to control a dozer from a remote control centre, in a transition that has been nine months in the planning.

“We are re-imagining mining to improve people’s lives. From a business safety perspective, this will remove our coal miners from the hazards of working with voids in our coal stockpiles,” he said.

“We are starting with small steps as our workers adjust from the ‘feeling’ of manual operation to remote control with cameras and computer screens.

“We already have microphones in the machine sending the sound back to the operators along with six cameras on the dozer itself - as well as cameras around the stockpile which can all be adjusted remotely.

“Through feedback, we are now looking at whether we can adapt the chair to tilt and provide movement feedback through the joystick the same way our operators would sense the stockpile beneath when manually operating the dozer.

“We’re starting with just one dozer, but the plan is to ramp up and retrofit the entire fleet - that's 13 in total across our Capcoal and Moranbah operations.”

Remote Control Dozer operator Wes Sann. Photos supplied: Anglo American

A remote control dozer in operation

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