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Suncor Energy says driverless trucks will eliminate a net 400 positions


CALGARY — Suncor Energy says its deployment of driverless hauling trucks at its oilsands mines in northern Alberta will result in a net loss of about 400 full-time equivalent positions.

Chief operating officer Mark Little says implementation will remove the need for about 500 people now involved in operating the bitumen ore haulers at Suncor’s Base Camp and Fort Hills mines.

But he adds the autonomous truck fleet will create about 100 new positions, for a net loss of 400.

The company has been testing the 400-tonne capacity Komatsu trucks for about four years and announced Tuesday it will gradually build a fleet of 150 driverless trucks over the next six years, starting with the North Steepbank mine at its Base Camp.

The trucks were initially criticized by the Unifor union local because of job losses. Little says Suncor is working with the union to minimize job impacts by retraining workers whose jobs will disappear.

He says the company has been preparing for the switch by hiring its truck drivers, including those at its just-opened Fort Hills mine, on a temporary basis.

Tokyo-based Komatsu Ltd. this week celebrated the 10th anniversary of deployment of its first autonomous truck at a Codelco copper mine in Chile, noting that more than 100 trucks now operate at four Rio Tinto mines in Australia, the mine in Chile and at Suncor.

On Tuesday, Rio Tinto announced its autonomous haul trucks had achieved the milestone of having moved a total of one billion tonnes of material.

In December, the mining company announced plans to expand to 140 trucks by the end of 2019 from about 80 in its current fleet.




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