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Our copper operation Spence begins its journey to autonomy

Our copper operation Spence in northern Chile inaugurated its first autonomous drill, a milestone that marks the start of implementing different autonomy projects that seek to contribute to safer, more competitive, and sustainable operations.

A total of 5 autonomous drills will gradually be put into operation. In the future, the idea is that 100% of the drill pool will be autonomous. It is expected that Spence will make a decision on introducing an autonomous on truck fleet during the 2022 calendar year.

"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," Pedro Hidalgo, Head of Autonomy at Minerals Americas

The active participation by Spence workers during the development of this project, which has already been under way for close to two years, was fundamental.

In this regard, Pampa Norte Asset President Cristián Sandoval acknowledged "the importance of having developed this process together with workers, both through the involvement of our union as well as in early talks with workers and showed through in the recruitment and selection processes which were run for the new roles that the project required."

Spence opened 16 new positions for the roles of Autonomous Drill Controllers and Autonomous Drill Yard Operators for this project. The workers selected received specialized training, a total of close to 200 hours of theoretical and practical training.

The equipment used is the Pit Viper 351 model, operated remotely from the Spence Control Room located about 2 kilometers from the mine pit. Its implementation reduces people's exposure to operational health and safety hazards and the equipment's availability is expected to increase by 1.7%, while its use will do so by 14.1%.