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The Resources Sector

Building a Better WA

Safer. Smarter. Cleaner.

As COVID-19 impacts the world, the resources sector continues to support WA’s economic recovery.

We’ve worked hard to keep our operations going to help protect thousands of Western Australian jobs and grow the State’s economy.

Together, we’ll build a brighter future for WA by working safer, smarter, and cleaner.

Click the tabs below to see how the resources sector is contributing to the growth and development of Western Australia.

Safer

Using technology to keep workers safe

Mine sites across WA, like the one operated by Premier Coal in Collie, are using automated technology to help keep workers safe on site – and even beyond. Cameras mounted on all machinery monitor the eye, head and general body movements of operators throughout shifts, using algorithms to detect risks such as eye closure and distraction.

The technology not only alerts the operator via a forceful vibration in the machine seat, but also sends data to a command centre in the US, where incidents are assessed for severity and repeated behaviour patterns and detailed reports are prepared for Premier’s health and safety team. The technology has not only helped Premier address fatigue and distraction issues, but has even led to one employee being diagnosed with a previously undiagnosed sleep disorder.

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Working together in the fight against COVID-19

The mining and resources sector’s commitment to keeping both its workforce and the community safe from the COVID-19 pandemic was reflected by its integral role in a program known as DETECT, which focused on wide-scale asymptomatic testing of FIFO workers, in addition to students, teachers, health care workers and police. In total, CME member companies contributed $500,000 towards the operation of DETECT.

The program – which involved collaboration with WA Health, Curtin University and the Harry Perkins Institute, among others – provided an additional layer to the sector’s suite of measures to protect its workforce and the communities in which it operates from the risks of COVID-19. It also helped position WA as a world leader in identifying the prevalence of COVID-19 in essential cohorts, validating testing techniques and informing broader academic research.

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Soa The Hulk’s new fight

Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei is familiar to many Western Australians through his career in the  Ultimate Fighting Championship. But in retirement from the UFC, Soa has found a new calling – addressing the vital issue of mental health on mine sites around the State as ambassador for McMahon’s Strong Minds, Strong Mines program.

Soa’s highly recognisable frame is now a regular sight at mining operations, where he speaks about his own past mental health challenges and provides advice around the direct link between physical fitness and good mental health. McMahon’s program is reflective of the mining and resources sector’s strong and ongoing commitment towards achieving positive mental health outcomes for its workforce, which includes the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA’s partnership with Lifeline.

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Smarter

RORI the robot – going where human firefighters can’t

For decades, mine sites have wrestled with how to manage emergency situations that prevent workers getting close enough to respond and observe exactly what’s going on.

Enter RORI, a product Rio Tinto’s Pioneering Pitch innovation program and a robot which has the potential to keep his co-workers safe while also protecting equipment worth millions of dollars.

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A new vibrant life after mining stops

Only 25 years ago, Lake Kepwari was a huge open cut coal mine known as Western Five. These days it’s the South West’s latest aquatic attraction – a playground for recreational water sports and fishing that covers the best part of 100 hectares, features extensive camping facilities and is attracting tourists to help diversify the economy of Collie.

Its new life is a testament to the work done by Premier Coal over the best part of two decades to rehabilitate the former mine and make it one of the very few sites to be surrendered out of mining tenements and released back to the WA Government. This complex process included significant environmental work to return the Collie River to its original path, which now sees it flow through Lake Kepwari.

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Retaining talent and meeting community needs

In 2017, the BHP Perth office established a creche and two family-friendly workspaces, with the intention of providing emergency and adhoc care to parents when their regular childcare arrangements fell through. The concept proved so popular that it was expanded to Newman, where BHP has significant operations and where childcare facilities previously available to the community were limited.

The Perth facility has now been used by more than 400 families, who had made more than 2,700 bookings by the end of October 2020 – more than 40 per cent made by males, in a sign of increased shared caring responsibilities that enable women to return to work. In Newman, the facility has been used by 80 families making more than 300 bookings, with 60 per cent of those coming from the wider community.

In March 2021, the BHP Office Creche & Family Friendly Workspaces project was announced as the Women In Resources Awards Outstanding Company Initiative.

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Data, not just digging, on the menu at WASM

As mining professionals of the future contemplate a career that may involve as much data as it does digging, Dr Robert Solomon will help guide them along the way. The Manager of Operational Duties at Fortescue Metals Group was appointed the WA School of Mines’ inaugural Professor of Practice In Mining Automation and Data Analysis in August 2020.

Dr Solomon’s role is integral to embedding WASM’s future-focused curriculum and will lead and implement research initiatives, foster industry collaborations, shape undergraduate curriculum, and encourage the expansion of conceptual and practical boundaries of applied data science in the minerals industry.

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Cleaner

Mussel-power helps improve a vital WA waterway

Mussels, for many of us, are best known as a delicacy usually enjoyed in a chilli-infused tomato broth, alongside fresh white crusty bread. But they are also a vital part of Australian waterways.

And thanks to a unique partnership between Alcoa, The Nature Conservancy and the local community, tens of thousands of them will be returned to reefs in the Peel-Harvey Estuary, where their enormous water filtration capacity will help clear the waterway and provide better habitats for a variety of important fish.

The WA mine site on track to recycle millions of water bottles each year

Given its geographical location, it’s no surprise that time spent on CITIC Pacific Mining’s Sino Iron project south-west of Karratha can be thirsty work.

But now the company is meeting the challenge of managing the more than two million disposable water bottles consumed on-site each year, with an innovative partnership with North West Recycling helping support a local, family-owned business and provide a future avenue to fund community programs and not-for-profit initiatives in the Pilbara.

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Wind and solar driving outback mine site

Gold Fields’ Agnew gold mine, located 23km west of Leinster, is not just home to Australia’s largest hybrid renewable energy microgrid, but is also the first mine site in the country to make large-scale use of wind power. The microgrid features five 110m wind turbines, a 10,710-panel solar farm, a 13MW/4MWH battery system and an off-grid gas/diesel engine power plant.

In the long term, renewable energy will provide the mine with 50-60 per cent of its power needs. The resultant emissions reduction of approximately 46,400 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum would correlate to taking some 12,700 cars off the road each year.

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Mining’s electric revolution gaining pace

With electric passenger vehicles set to become a dominant mode of transport by next decade, WA mining operations are continually looking for ways battery power can help cut on-site emissions and make their production regimes cleaner.

FMG announced early in 2021 that it was partnering with Williams Advanced Engineering to design and build a battery system to power a mining haul truck, which would generate power at it travelled downhill. Both BHP and Rio Tinto have revealed they are working with Caterpillar to create zero-emission Cat 793 haul trucks over the next few years. Meanwhile, Roy Hill is set to become the first Pilbara miner to use a battery-powered electric locomotive to transport iron ore to port, in a move it estimates will cut fuel costs and emissions by a double-digit percentage per train.

Returning things to how you found them

Doral’s Yoongarillup mineral sands mine just outside Busselton is a prime example of what a world-class rehabilitation project should look like. The mine produced 300,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate, comprising an ilmenite and zircon final product while operating from 2017 to 2020 – but even before mining finished, large-scale rehabilitation was already underway.

Rehabilitation is focused on both pastoral and native vegetation restoration. To date, approximately 20,000 native seedlings in addition to 25kg of seed have been planted, with a further 20,000 seedlings to be planted over the next two years.

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