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As the world embraces the enormous possibilities of technology, the nature of work is changing and this is presenting opportunities and challenges for the communities in which we operate. BHP is working to support communities to transition to new ways of working and thrive in this changing environment.

Groups such as the World Economic Forum are calling this transition the fourth industrial revolution; others Industry 4.0. What is clear is that we have entered a period of unprecedented change where technology is being advanced and extended into the way we do things, shifting the balance between manual tasks and machine processes.

The resources industry, like many others, is embracing this change. At BHP, we are or soon will be using autonomous haulage trucks at our Jimblebar, Eastern Ridge, Goonyella and Daunia mines in Australia. While these autonomous trucks no longer need drivers, this shift has created new roles that didn’t exist before – the trucks need to be operated remotely and have new technology that needs to be maintained.

We have also introduced technology to change the way we do things, such as the ‘smart caps’ used at the Escondida copper mine to measure driver fatigue, and we are also using artificial intelligence (AI) in some of our operational decision-making. For example, at one of our Western Australia Iron Ore operations, we have introduced an AI system that chooses which crusher a truck should use to minimise queueing and reduce costs and idle time.

These changes not only deliver operational efficiencies, they help make our workplace safer. However, we recognise our role in the communities in which we operate to contribute to ensuring they also are well positioned to take advantage of the changes technology brings. Therefore, our regional development programs are geared towards helping communities to embrace the changing nature of work and make the most of the opportunities this transition offers.

Community wellbeing

Smart Transformation Project

Since November 2019, the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) has supported the coal mining communities of Moranbah and Dysart in the Isaac region of Queensland through the Smart Transformation Project. This project involves Smart Transformation Advisory Councils and a Youth Advisory Council which have undertaken a readiness assessment of the towns to assist them to plan for and embrace a ‘smart change’ to the impacts and opportunities arising from the changing nature of work.

The project’s Smart Transformation Readiness Assessment and resulting Community Roadmap embrace the human factor needed to improve the application of technologies and help shape investment in this area in the future from companies, government and regional bodies.

The Roadmap covers three priority action areas of Community Wellbeing, Business Opportunities and Skills and Training, and involves attracting new businesses to the Isaac region and skills and training development, as well as maximising the opportunities in existing sectors including agriculture and mining.

Newman Futures

Newman Futures is a collaboration project sponsored by BHP and the Shire of East Pilbara in Western Australia to explore how new technologies can be harnessed to serve the interests of the iron ore mining communities in the Pilbara region.

It commenced in January 2019 and assists the communities to address ongoing social and economic development and activities to support what the future of work, training and life will look like in Newman. The principles underpinning this new way forward are:

  • Culture and Country – Recognition and acknowledgement of different ways of seeing, interacting and being in the world.
  • Liveability and Wellbeing – Supporting foundations for community and economic participation.
  • Education and Training – Equipping and reskilling people of all ages and demographics to participate in the economy.
  • Economy and Work – Uptake of innovation and technology across small to large and Indigenous businesses.

Greater Whitsunday Alliance

The Greater Whitsunday Alliance (GW3) and BHP have formed a three-year strategic partnership aimed at enhancing the economic sustainability of the greater Whitsunday region.

The partnership is focused on preparing for workforces of the future, advancing water stewardship and strengthening local supply chains – all of which are focused on creating direct and positive impacts across the three regions.

This partnership enables BHP to bring our skills and expertise to a broad range of regional challenges and to be part of a collective approach to enhancing regional prosperity.

GW3 is the region’s peak independent economic development body, committed to making the Mackay, Isaac, Whitsunday region (MIW) strong for generations. GW3 is focused on MIW being a ‘Transformation Region’ that showcase examples of transformative practices and how the region’s businesses, industries and communities are embracing transformational change.

Skills and training

Bowen Basin Bright Minds

Bowen Basin Bright Minds is a A$5 million, five-year partnership designed to reach more than 6,000 students across the Bowen Basin region in Queensland.

Focused on education and future-skills, the partnership has been developed in collaboration with regional principals and educators to engage and encourage students from an early age around STEM (specifically technology) and equip our industry’s potential future workforce with the knowledge and training for future jobs in mining.

The partnership is designed to expose children from the age of four upwards to technology and technological concepts that will help to develop the awareness, skills and critical thinking required in a more technologically focused future.

Bowen Basin Bright Minds gives local schools the flexibility to spend allocated funding on a variety of initiatives (within specific parameters) from teacher professional development in technology to programming and equipment.

Queensland Future Skills Partnership

The Queensland Future Skills (QFS) Partnership is a three-way partnership between BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), TAFE Queensland and CQUniversity. It is designed to fund and facilitate the fast-tracked development and delivery of automated technology pathways, skill sets and qualifications in open-cut mining operations in Queensland.

Through consultation with expert working groups and industry subject matter experts, including the Australian Industry and Skills Committee’s Skills Service Organisation – PwC’s Skills for Australia, the partnership has developed a qualification framework that will help shape our industry’s future workforce.

The programs are under development and are expected to be accredited in late 2020, for pilot in the Isaac region in early 2021. This training will provide strong foundations for the workforce of the future.

Indigenous Digital Excellence

A part of the Newman Futures project, the Indigenous Digital Excellence Program, seeks to unlock the opportunities the digital world can provide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Newman region of Western Australia.

Participants learn a range of skills, including coding robots, using drones to care for country and exploring virtual worlds using virtual reality headsets.

Business opportunities

Supplier Innovation Program (Minerals Australia)

Following a successful program in BHP Minerals Americas, we have partnered with Austmine in Australia to deliver a Supplier Innovation Program that is designed to make it easier for the Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector to put forward solutions to BHP’s business challenges and win opportunities for ongoing work while retaining their intellectual property.
The program allows BHP to crowd-source innovative solutions to our business problems and represents a significantly different approach than the tender methods traditionally used to engage suppliers.

Austmine puts out the challenges and actively scouts the market to identify potential suppliers. Suppliers can also request to pitch an idea to solve a challenge and this is assessed by BHP. The winning solution proceeds to a pilot test program ahead of potential implementation.

As our industry shifts towards more remote and technologically enabled operations, our ability to build and leverage local capability will be crucial to our competitive advantage.

Resources Centre of Excellence

In June 2020, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) announced it was committing A$2.3 million to support the creation of two new positions in Queensland that will play an important part in the future of mining and the METS sector in the State. 

The money will support the appointment of a General Manager at the newly established Resources Centre of Excellence in Mackay, helping establish it as a world-class mining centre, and a Chair of Automation and Future Work Skills at CQUniversity, to assist in delivering future-focused training and education.

The appointees to the two new roles will work together with industry, community leaders and governments to identify the best way for the State to take advantage of the evolving opportunities technology will bring.

The move followed BMA’s initial commitment of A$475,000 in 2019 to support the establishment of the Resources Centre of Excellence. The Centre opened in July 2020 and features an underground mining simulator, a research lab and cutting-edge education facilities.

It delivers a world-class facility for research, innovation and collaboration to build regional capability and maximise opportunities presented by technology and automation. 

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