Dates: Apr 2009 - Dec 2012

Region: Australia

Theme: Policy and Regional Governance

The use of ‘driverless trucks’ and establishment of control centres in capital cities thousands of kilometres from mine sites are examples of the technological advances taking place in the Australian mining industry. These and other new technologies are promoted has having the potential to reduce labour and operating costs, improve operational efficiency and create a safer working environment – all contributing to a more competitive mining industry. There may also be new business and employment opportunities associated with these new technologies, such as in their design, manufacture, operation and maintenance. While the broader economic benefits of these technologies could be substantial, there are unanswered questions about the potential social implications of these technological advances.

The intent of this research is not to inhibit technological advancement but to ensure that the benefits flowing from these technologies are broadly distributed and adverse consequences are minimised.  
This project was funded as part of the Mineral Futures Collaboration Cluster, a collaborative research program between the Australian CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation) and five Australian universities as part of the Minerals Down Under National Research Flagship (MDU). MDU is an $80 million per annum program aimed at ensuring the medium to long term sustainability of the Australian minerals industry through the development of transformative technologies and processes.
This research is part of a larger body of work focused on developing an applied Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA) framework, Social Licence in Design. This framework aids the early identification of social and environmental implications of new technologies and provide guidance on strategies for mitigating adverse impacts and maximising societal benefit.

Project Aims

  • Investigate the social dimensions of autonomous and remote operation technologies in Australian mining
  • Understand the change in employment arrangements associated with these technologies and identify the effects this could have on different demographic groups such as women, Aboriginal people and on mining communities
  • Generate a broader discussion about these technologies involving a wide range of stakeholders and considering issues beyond technical capability and productivity advancements
  • Inform decisions about the further development and application of autonomous and remote operation technologies with the intention of capturing benefits and mitigating potential negative impacts
  • Assist stakeholders such as education providers, technical service providers, governments, resource communities and traditional owners to prepare for the transition to autonomous and remote operation mining
  • Help resource companies understand the implications of these technologies for their Social Licence to Operate (SLO).

Project Partners

  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
  • Mining Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC)
CSIRO – Mineral Futures Collaboration Cluster (Stream 2 – Technology Futures): Automation
Apr 2009
Dec 2012

CSIRO – Mineral Futures Collaboration Cluster (Stream 2 – Technology Futures): Automation