Whitehaven Coal reported it implemented an autonomous haulage system for moving overburden at Maules Creek, making it the first major coal operation to embrace autonomous mining.

The system consists of a fleet of six Hitachi EH5000 trucks and an excavator. During Q2 2020, additional labor resources were trained and deployed to allow for seven-day operation, the miner reported.

“During the quarter, we fully met our manning requirements at Maules Creek and are now investing in the skills development to achieve full utilization of equipment and productivity of our workforce,” Whitehaven Coal CEO Paul Flynn said.

Since December 2019, Maules Creek has recruited miners to ensure the fleet was fully deployed by the end of Q2 2020.

Maules Creek mined 2.36 million metric tons (mt) of raw coal during Q1 2020, a 39% improvement over the previous quarter. Mining efforts during the previous quarter, however, were focused on overburden movement in support box-cut development.

Maules Creek’s year-to-date raw coal production is 17% below the same period last year, which, the miner reported, was affected by labor shortages and production disruptions due to drought and bushfires.