Darrell White, Executive General Manager – Americas,
"Our approach is to combine technology with training to aid transformation in mining, which is increasingly important as we see ore grades decline."
Can you provide details of the five new Liebherr T264 electric wheel drive trucks deployed by Thiess at Antofagasta Minerals’ Encuentro Oxides operation at Minera Centinela?
Thiess has a strong working relationship with Liebherr that dates back decades. We’re excited to bring the new T264 electric-wheel-drive trucks to Chile. The trucks are on site at Centinela and currently (May 2022) in the commissioning phase. We anticipate deploying the trucks in the upcoming weeks. This investment reinforces our commitment to Chile, an important part of Thiess’ growth plans in South America.
How is the Hydra consortium, including Thiess, working to replace the use of diesel in high-tonnage vehicles with hydrogen?
The Hydra consortium is looking into alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, and fuel combinations like hydrogen-electric. Thiess’ involvement in the developmental project is part of our commitment to drive more sustainable mining practices. We are also involved in other initiatives, exploring alternative fuel sources that could serve as a catalyst to reducing the carbon footprint of our own fleets and allowing us to help clients reach their own carbon emission reduction goals.
The cost of fuel has been a significant challenge over the last year. To counter this, we have worked to maximize operational efficiency, minimizing idle time, or non-effective uptime, with our fleet. Thiess is currently participating in trials to reduce diesel fuel consumption in Australia, which could also have a significant impact.
Can you give examples of the latest innovations Thiess is working with which are improving productivity and increasing safety at mine sites?
Technology plays an important role in improving both safety and productivity, which go hand in hand. Statistically, operations with the safest workplaces are the most productive. Technology supports the decision-making process of workers, and at the end of the day, it’s still people who operate equipment and make decisions on site. Our approach is to combine technology with training to aid transformation in mining, which is increasingly important as we see ore grades decline. Autonomy also plays a role in this. For example, Thiess operates autonomous and semi-autonomous dozer and drill fleets in Australia, and later this year, we will deploy our first autonomous truck fleet, also in Australia. We are seeking out the right opportunities with the right clients in Chile to deploy similar technologies here, which will help reduce the number of people on site, particularly in high altitude areas.
What is Thiess’s approach to fostering strong social relations with local communities and attracting a more diverse workforce?
Focusing on improvement through ESG initiatives is crucial to the success of the mining industry. Many of our employees come from the outlying communities in which we operate and, as a company, we must be good stewards by offering fair, healthy and sustainable working conditions and development opportunities for our people. Furthermore, as an industry we have a responsibility to ensure enough of the benefits earned from mining serve the communities and countries that generate them. In northern Chile Thiess participates in scholarship programs to train locals and equip them with the tools and skills they need to gain sustainable employment and support their families.
We have made a dedicated effort to train women in the north of Chile, including a multi-year apprenticeship program, which we are initiating in 2022 in partnership with local technical institutes. Later this year, Thiess will open a new innovation, training and technology center in La Negra, Antofagasta, which will focus on preparing skilled maintenance personnel. The facility will also serve as an operational training center with technologies that can help develop new skill sets
What are the main themes you see impacting the mining services segment in 2023?
Thiess’ new vision, launched in May 2022, outlines our commitment to developing our people, utilizing new technology, and driving the industry toward more sustainable resource solutions. We see alternative fuels play a key part in this transition and are actively working to minimize our carbon footprint.
Another major shift comes from the implementation of autonomous equipment to increase safety on site by removing operators from high exposure mining environments. This creates a workplace with greater fatigue management and supports retention through opportunities to upskill and work with the latest technology in the industry.