Call to base automated jobs in the Pilbara

Tom Zaunmayr and Nick EvansPilbara News
VideoIn an Australian first, WA schools and TAFEs will offer automation courses in operating driverless trucks and trains

The WA Nationals have called on the State Government and the mining industry to consider basing more automated resources jobs in the Pilbara.

With new mines having a strong automation focus and robots being increasingly introduced to old mines, there is concern about more hands-on roles being removed from the Pilbara.

The call comes as Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said he was worried the rise of autonomous mining equipment was driving jobs out of regional centres.

He hinted he would support action to curb job losses.

WA Nationals deputy leader Jacqui Boydell said automation would present new job opportunities but the location of those jobs should be up for debate.

“Maybe they need automatic haul truck operators; can they be based out of Karratha?” she said.

“We need to have that conversation because automation doesn’t necessarily have to mean having all jobs based in Perth.

“There needs to be some opportunities for communities to speak to organisations like Rio Tinto and BHP about placing those automated jobs here as well.”

Ms Boydell said State Agreements needed to be updated to reflect the nature of the modern resources industry.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA deputy chief executive Nicole Roocke said many trades would require new skill sets as a result of automation.

“The technology-adoption journey has shown the need for strong initial skills development and constant re-skilling,” she said.

“For example it will be as likely a fitter will reach for a tablet as often as a spanner.

“Rapid changes in technology mean it is difficult to fully conceptualise what skills will be required in many future roles in the resources sector.”

Ms Roocke said Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri mine, the company’s first intelligent mine, would still create about 600 operational jobs.

Mr Canavan said the mining sector had contributed to the development of many country towns throughout the country.

“And I want to make sure we continue to do that,” he said.

Senator Canavan pointed to Queensland rules that prohibit mining workforces from being 100 per cent FIFO as an example of laws that can help support regional communities.

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