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Mining automation human-systems integration – CMOC-Northparkes case study


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Author R Burgess-Limerick, T Horberry, L Steiner and J Cronin


Automation offers the mining industry great potential for improvements in productivity and safety. However, the experience of introducing automation in other industries has been that the full potential of new technology is not always realised. Designers are surprised, for example, to find that automation does not eliminate human errors. Unwanted and unexpected consequences also arise if the introduction of automation fails to consider how people will adapt to the new technology. A focus on the technical aspects of automation is necessary but not sufficient for success. The potential for improvements in productivity and safety promised by automation will only be achieved if the joint cognitive system that emerges from the combination of humans and automation is designed to perform the functions required for system success. This case study describes the human factors issues associated with the introduction of automation generally, and describes a case study of the successful implementation of loader automation at Northparkes mine.

Information obtained through a site visit and interviews
with operators, safety staff and the project manager revealed the following
strategies for successful design and implementation of the automation

  • involve the people who will be impacted

  • encourage constant communication between operators and designers

  • provide operators with essential information

  • avoid providing non-essential information

  • provide the operators with flexibility

  • empower operators to take action

  • take advantage of the new possibilities automation provides.


Burgess-Limerick, R, Horberry, T, Steiner, L and Cronin, J,
2017. Mining automation human-systems integration – CMOC-Northparkes case study,
in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Underground Operators’ Conference 2017, pp 93–98 (The
Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).