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Data is the driving force behind the technological future of mining. It gives us scope to make our operations safer, more sustainable and more productive and helps us better navigate the complex environment in which we work.

Since its inception two years ago, the BHP Innovation Centre at Eastern Ridge in Western Australia is one of BHP’s flagship transformation initiatives that focuses on capturing, creating, monitoring and understanding data to help us work smarter. The aim is to better integrate operations under simplified platforms that use real-time data to improve safety, culture and productivity. This is part of a broader program of work to trial, develop and deploy breakthrough technologies across our operations that improve ways of working and strengthen safety.

New technologies such as acoustic equipment monitoring give us access to real-time information to improve decision-making.

Historically, we’ve made equipment and vehicles bigger and faster to boost productivity. But this has its limits. That’s why our focus has shifted to optimising existing equipment and processes, using a combination of technology and new or existing data to make the right decisions at the right time.

New technologies such as acoustic equipment monitoring give us access to real-time information to improve decision-making. Pedestrian avoidance technology has the potential to reduce safety incidents. These technologies are tested in a controlled environment before being deployed across other sites. As we progress, the centre will inform the design and implementation of initiatives across BHP's supply chain, covering geology, extraction, processing and transport.

Real-time process controls have the potential to improve ore quality and grade delivered to processing plants. The aim is to manage our operations under a single system, improve their predictability, reliability and stability, and reduce spare capacity and investment in equipment.

For instance, data analytics helps us predict with greater precision when the rollers on our conveyor belts need to be replaced. Sensors that monitor trucks analyse road conditions and determine whether they need to be repaired.

The combination of data insights, critical thinking and creative problem solving helps us find solutions previously not considered possible.

Live mine scheduling is an innovation developed in-house that uses real-time data to produce faster and higher quality mine schedules. It allows mine schedulers to analyse and combine disparate data sets to improve load and haul operations. The tool has since been deployed to Mount Whaleback, Mining Area C and is scheduled for the remainder of our Western Australia iron ore operations in 2020.

While we can’t predict what technological advances will emerge in the long term, we can accelerate and deliver the innovations that build capability and set us up for the future.

But we can’t do this work alone. That’s why we actively seek partners within our local communities and outside to collaboratively develop the best innovations. For example, we invested A$12 million into developing the University of WA’s new world-class Engineering Zone in 2013 to encourage more people to study engineering, mathematics and computer science. These partnerships are critical to the future growth of our industry.

The resources industry has long been an engine of innovation. The combination of data insights, critical thinking and creative problem solving helps us find solutions previously not considered possible. This will forge our path towards a safer and more sustainable future.

Go inside the BHP Innovation Centre: bhp.com/technology

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