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BHP Billiton uses laser tech to automate shiploaders at Port Hedland

BHP Billiton Group will use the same technology that is used in driverless cars to automate its shiploading functions at Port Hedland in Western Australia, The West Australian wrote May 21. The light detection and ranging technology, or LiDAR, can sense a machine's surroundings and detect potential obstacles.

The mining major, which has been working to automate shiploaders at Port Hedland for the past three years, has already shipped 1 million tonnes of iron ore using the autonomous system from the world's leading bulk tonnage export terminal. The company is now planning to expand the project to cover each of its eight shiploaders next year, with a final decision expected soon.

Clayton Hanrahan, the company's port production manager, said the shift toward automated shiploading was mainly driven by safety.

In addition, the anticipated incremental gains due to automated shiploading in terms of tonnes are potentially worth millions of dollars over the time, the report added.

BHP noted that the autonomous shiploading at Port Hedland will not result in any job losses.