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GMGGlobal Mining Guidelines Group’s (GMG) Autonomous Mining Working Group is creating a new guideline to clarify functional safety requirements for autonomous equipment.

The mining industry is embracing automation, but mobile automation technologies are still in the early stages of technology development. As a result, there lacks clear guidance and industry alignment on requirements for managing functional safety. When it comes to requirements for managing functional safety, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are at varying stages of maturity, existing standards are not explicitly developed for automating mining equipment, and regulatory authorities provide little specific guidance. Overall, there is general confusion over which standards to follow, and GMG’s Autonomous Mining Working Group plans to offer this much-needed clarity by developing a guideline on functional safety requirements for autonomous equipment.

Over the past year, the Autonomous Mining Working Group has been developing a guideline for implementing autonomous systems. At a workshop in Brisbane last August, the group identified functional safety, which is only covered very generally in the broader implementation document, as a topic requiring significant independent consideration. “The Functional Safety for Autonomous Mining guideline project is truly a timely activity and will help accelerate support for autonomous systems” says Andrew Scott, GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups and Principal Innovator at Symbiotic Innovations.

This new project aims to provide a unified industry understanding of the functional safety requirements for mobile autonomous equipment. This understanding involves not only clearly defining what functional safety is, but also identifying who is responsible for it, creating a collective view of minimum requirements and presenting general guidance on testing and verifying it. To this end, the guideline will develop a process to follow for functional safety management, document existing relevant standards and consider their constraints, present use cases, share lessons learned, and clarify who owns, builds and is accountable for functional safety management planning.

The working group held the project kick-off workshop in Perth, Australia, on October 8th where participants identified the key issues to cover and prioritized preliminary project goals. The workshop was a great first step, as the project’s co-leader Gareth Topham, Principal Adviser Functional Safety at Rio Tinto, explains, “the level of engagement from a group that included equal representation of operators, OEMs and third-party support services was outstanding.”

The strong early engagement bodes well for the project’s future because participation from a wide variety of stakeholders and subject matter experts will contribute to the project’s success. The working group is seeking broad participation from mining companies as the end users and operators and OEMs as the producers and suppliers. They are also seeking participation from regulators, inspectors, system integrators, standards organizations, technology providers, and mining and machine specific subject matter experts.

“GMG acts as a safe environment where true collaboration takes place” Scott explains, “this project is a testament to that.” The project allows “competing companies to come together under the GMG banner to align the industry and drive a common direction,” which is a great accomplishment, Scott adds, because “as an industry, we had to get to a level of maturity before we could have these conversations.”

The dates and location for the next workshop will be announced before the end of this year.

Those interested in participating are encouraged to contact Blaine Sullivan, Membership and Working Groups Coordinator, bsullivan@gmggroup.org.

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