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BHP has started autonomous drilling at its Spence copper operation, in Chile.

The miner said that five autonomous drills would gradually be put into operation at Spence, with the company hoping that 100% of its drill pool would eventually becoming autonomous.

Truck automation at Spence would also be decided during 2022, BHP said.

“The first autonomous drill in Spence is the spearhead of a broader program that we are implementing in BHP’s main operations in Chile. We are not just working on drills, but also on autonomous trucks. We’re very happy to complete this first milestone, which will allow us to make further progress in the Autonomy Program at both Spence as well as Escondida,” said BHP head of autonomy at Minerals America Pedro Hidalgo.ADVERTISEMENT

Its implementation of the autonomous drilling is expected to reduce staff exposure to operational health and safety hazards and the equipment‘s availability is expected to increase by 1.7%, while its use will also increase by 14.1%.

Spence opened 16 new positions for the roles of autonomous drill controllers and autonomous drill yard operators for this project, and workers selected received specialised training, and a total of close to 200 hours of theoretical and practical training.