A driverless truck study has been launched at a CQ mine.
A driverless truck study has been launched at a CQ mine. Jessica Dorey

Driverless truck study launched at CQ mine

THE future has arrived at Central Queensland's Dawson Mine.

Global mining giant Anglo American has launched a study into replacing 23 trucks with a driverless, autonomous haulage system at Dawson Mine.

The study will be finalised towards the end of this year, at which point a decision will be made on whether to proceed with the technology.

Anglo American said the timing of the Dawson study comes as the company looks to make a key decision on whether to undertake a major overhaul on its ageing CAT797 fleet or replace it.

Anglo American metallurgical coal business chief executive Tyler Mitchelson said while a final decision had not been made on the feasibility of the project, it was conscious of the need to minimise the impact on workers.

Mr Mitchelson said the company would explore redeployment options for impacted employees and new roles would also be created if the project went ahead.

"We also understand the importance of locally-based employment to our communities, and we have reinforced to our community stakeholders that if the project proceeds, our intent is to protect local jobs and continue to undertake measures to encourage people to live locally," Mr Mitchelson said.

While driverless trucks have started to become more common at mining sites, Anglo American said the technology had developed further to allow the company to explore the feasibility of harnessing it in open-pit coal mining.

"The accelerating pace of technological innovation, particularly in the digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence areas, are opening up opportunities for the mining sector to be safer, more productive and sustainable," Mr Mitchelson said.

Anglo American operates five metallurgical coal mines in Queensland's Bowen Basin.

CFMMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth said the union was seeking more information about what the trial would mean for the workforce. 

"We are willing to engage constructively with the trial to make sure workers interests are looked after, including redeployment and retraining where appropriate," Mr Smyth said.

"We are very concerned about the prospect of job losses arising from automation. Coal mining has the support of regional communities on the grounds it provides good local jobs. If that's no longer the case, mining companies risk losing their social license to operate."