Fortescue Metals Group chief executive Elizabeth Gaines says innovations in energy are likely to continue driving the miner’s reputation as one of the world’s lowest cost iron ore producers.

Speaking on the first day of the Resources Technology Showcase in Perth, Ms Gaines said innovation and technology had underpinned Fortescue’s “cost-leading” position in the iron ore market, with its operations producing at $US12.95 per wet metric tonne in the recent September quarter.

The Andrew Forrest-controlled company is already working on a 60-megawatt solar power generation facility that will supply 100 per cent of stationary daytime energy requirements at its Chichester Hub operations in the Pilbara.

The facility, linked to Alinta Energy’s Newman gas-fired power station and a proposed 35-megawatt battery, will cut 100 million litres of diesel from Fortescue’s fuel costs and reduce emissions when completed in mid-2021.

Last year, the company signed a landmark five-year agreement with the CSIRO to explore the bulk transportation of hydrogen as a fuel using ammonia.

“We see the possibility to establish a bulk export market in the next decade — this could position Fortescue and WA at the forefront of the commercialisation of hydrogen,” she said.

Ms Gaines noted Japan and South Korea were expected to be net importers of hydrogen by 2030.

“We also believe that hydrogen is a potential future source of energy for our operations and that will continue to contribute to our low-cost status and reduce our carbon footprint,” she said.

Ms Gaines said Fortescue was targeting zero emissions operations by the second half of the century.

“We would actually like to accelerate that as much as we can but we need the technology,” she said at the conference, which is being hosted by Seven West Media.

“We operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We don’t only operate when the sun shines, so for us it’s about technology catching up.

“Any opportunities we can introduce to reach that net zero emissions, we’re certainly ambitious to do that.”

Fortescue expects to be the first iron ore miner to have a fully driverless haul truck fleet by the middle of next year as part of the ongoing roll-out of its autonomous haulage technology.

The company is also trialling automated light vehicles at its Christmas Creek mine.

Ms Gaines said the company was still on a journey when it came to machine learning capabilities, robotics and data analytics, which she described as emerging technologies.

“We’re not there yet ... we’re doing a lot over the next couple of years but we have a roadmap,” she said.

Ms Gaines said the company had been focused on autonomous haulage because it had delivered a 30 per cent productivity improvement as well as safety benefits.

The miner is also embracing new emissions-saving technology in the construction of its Eliwana iron ore project and the Iron Bridge magnetite project, which collectively represent an investment of $US3.87 billion.

Ms Gaines said Eliwana’s ore processing facility would use 50 per cent less steel and concrete and occupy a much smaller footprint than a standard plant of similar capacity.

“And our Iron Bridge operation will be one of the most cost and energy efficient producers of magnetite ore globally,” she said.

The projects are collectively expected to generate 5000 jobs during construction and 1500 jobs during operations.