BHP to build remote ops centre for Olympic Dam

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BHP to build remote ops centre for Olympic Dam

Third Australian facility.

BHP will stand up a third integrated remote operations centre in Australia, this time for Olympic Dam in South Australia.

The miner today unveiled plans to replicate the IROC concept further, after successful uses in its iron ore and coal operations.

Its first IROC is in Perth and began operating across its Pilbara iron ore mines in Western Australia in 2013. It provides real-time visibility into mine operations as well as a central point to control autonomous systems such as trucks and drills.

Last year, the miner decided to replicate the IROC concept for its coal operations on Australia’s east coast; the coal IROC is in Brisbane.

Mike Henry, operations president for BHP’s Minerals Australia business, today said replicating the “WAIO [WA Iron Ore] IROC to coal … is helping us to lift production and reduce costs.”

The company now wants to replicate its successes at Olympic Dam - long touted by BHP as “one of the world’s largest deposits of copper, gold and uranium”, but one which has historically underperformed.

BHP earlier this year said it would invest $600 million into Olympic Dam to build new foundations at the site to unlock its growth potential.

“Olympic Dam’s returns have been well below the company average,” Henry said.

“This is an asset that has enormous potential but in the ten years of owning it that potential has yet to be realised. We believe we’re now on the right path.”

Few details were released about how the IROC and its suite of technologies would be replicated to Olympic Dam.

Henry would only say "we’ll be standing up an IROC for Olympic Dam in FY19.”

However, the expansion of the IROC concept is broadly in line with what BHP sees as the purpose of its new central technology function, which it overhauled at the start of this year.

Henry described this as essentially being learn once, replicate many times.

“The nature and connectedness of Minerals Australia means that we will be able to learn at one asset and replicate to the other assets quickly,” he said.

“We’re bringing a sharper focus to the application of technology to help us lift performance right across the group.

“The scale of our ore bodies, combined with our operating model, including the newly aggregated technology function under Diane Jurgens, support our ability to reliably deploy and maximise returns through technology.”

Henry said there wasn’t “a corner of our business where technology isn’t getting focus.” This focus is mostly about improvements to safety, resource optimisation and productivity.

Henry also revealed today that the company’s Jimblebar iron ore mine in Western Australia is now fully autonomous for onsite haulage.

The mine has long been BHP’s key site for trialling and deploying autonomous haul trucks.

“At Jimblebar - as of six days ago - we are now fully autonomous and this has helped to reduce haulage costs by around 20 percent,” Henry said.

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