The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has struck back after Rio Tinto’s warned that Australian mining labour forces could be replaced by robots.
Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh has cautioned Australia against allowing resource projects to shut because of local cost pressures, and warned that Australian society and Australian workers had to ensure they didn’t price themselves out of the market.
He said that the carbon and mining taxes were an issue, and that Rio Tinto is banking on the repeal of both the mining and carbon taxes. “It’s awfully important Australia maintains its competitiveness,” Walsh said.
He said Rio Tinto’s push into the “robotisation” of mining was partly due to the massive wages the company has been forced to pay in Australia. Walsh first introduced automated workshops when he headed Nissan’s manufacturing operations, and said that was done because Australians didn’t want to do the hard, dirty work.
“Some people have expressed concern about automation but quite frankly it’s getting harder and harder to attract young people to remote areas,” he said.
“There are jobs for those who want them but it will be supplemented by automated trucks and trains and drills and so on.
“There are trade-offs between automation and having operators do things. If you are not careful it will reach the stage where people price themselves out of the market.
“The mere fact that we are automating trucks and trains in the Pilbara is economic. There was a business case for it. That’s indicating there is an issue.”
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