Just weeks after Roy Hill announced its plan to become the world’s biggest automated mine, towns across the Pilbara are preparing for more operations to follow suit.
Automating mine sites has long been touted as a way to improve safety, productivity and efficiency, with major miners keen to adopt more of the technology.
Shire of East Pilbara president Anthony Middleton said his council understood the need for automation, but there were concerns about what it would mean for smaller towns.
“It will affect them immensely,” he said.
“We always want to see a more permanent residential community. That is what contributes to the social fabric, the vibrancy and livability of regional locations.”
Towns such as Newman, located over 1000km from Perth, rely heavily on surrounding mines and some locals are concerned that automation may impact population numbers.
“Governments have invested billions of dollars into these communities to make them habitable and now we’re moving the jobs away,” Western Mining Workers Alliance joint secretary Greg Busson said.
“We’ve been contacting companies and getting undertakings for the workers regarding their future employment, looking for alternate jobs and tasks within the company for these people.”
Roy Hill has already put a plan in place to re-train workers, offering re-skilling programs and new roles to its truck drivers.
“Today you may be a truckie, tomorrow you might be an apprentice or ship loader operator, as we continue to build the best mining company in Australia,” Roy Hill chief executive Gerhard Veldsman said
“As we grow and expand our operations over the next few years, we are going to need lots of people and different skill sets to run our operations.”
WA’s peak resources sector representative body, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME), said there would always be a need for people in mining.
“Even where we see increasing use of automation, there are still really important jobs filled by people that support that process,” a CME spokesperson said.