Fortescue GM warns of automation skills shortage
Our studies have found there is no financial benefit to offshoring fabrication compared to doing it onshore Anthony Kirke
Fortescue iron ore general manager Anthony Kirke has warned of a looming skills shortage in mine site automation services as several huge new mine developments lean towards remotely operated machinery.
Speaking at the Pilbara Conference recently, Mr Kirke said maintenance and construction wireless networks and automated machinery were big jobs growth areas.
“There are not a whole lot of technicians out there trained to maintain the autonomous equipment,” he said.
“The maintenance of the automated layer on this equipment, there is a big skills shortage in this area.
“The autonomous layer on a truck is exactly the same as the control systems we put on our plants.”
Mr Kirke said significant resources needed to go into training for maintenance of automated equipment.
Fortescue is planning for its Eliwana mine to be fully autonomous. It is expected to create about 1900 construction and 500 operational jobs.
Mr Kirke said he was confident the bulk of fabrication work would be undertaken in WA.
“Our studies have found there is no financial benefit to offshoring fabrication compared to doing it onshore,” he said.
“There is no reason the bulk of this plant can’t be fabricated and built here in WA.”
He said Fortescue was looking into using a modular design for Eliwana which would minimise shutdowns and enable most of the maintenance to be undertaken with an onsite crew.
Fortescue is looking at making Eliwana 100 per cent autonomous.