Australia’s Iron Ladies of Mining Tech – by Tim Treadgold (Forbes Magazine – June 2018)

A digital-technology revolution is rocking the world’s mining industry just as it has seen a symbolic influx of women into executive roles long reserved for men.

Two iron ore projects in Australia demonstrate what’s happening as the world’s biggest mining companies, BHP and Rio Tinto, move closer to committing more than $3 billion each to what Rio Tinto calls “intelligent mining” and BHP “the mine of the future.” Both are about to make radical changes in their most profitable divisions by designing mines without the burden of legacy equipment, some of which hasn’t changed in decades.

Driverless trains and trucks, already being used in a number of projects, will be joined by an array of sensors, radar controls and Wi-Fi systems that will provide the data to control every aspect of work in the Koodaiderie and South Flank mines–all the way through to rail transport and the final stage of ship loading.

In early April at the launch of a joint venture with education authorities in Western Australia to train workers in automated systems, Chris Salisbury, chief executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, said that his company’s computer-controlled railway was “already the biggest robot in the world.”

But if Salisbury is in charge of a business that produced 330 million tons of iron ore last calendar year, worth $11.5 billion, then Kellie Parker, the managing director of iron ore planning, is who’s got to deliver tomorrow’s loads. She’s in charge of designing and delivering Koodaiderie, Rio Tinto’s first intelligent mine.

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