There’s no doubt that technology has already helped to reshape the resources sector, but for the woman at the forefront of the next revolution, there’s still much to do.

US-based Jean Savage has a dream — a completely automated mining process that not only increases productivity but makes operations safer.

The surface mining and technology division vice-president of global heavy equipment supplier Caterpillar will outline the latest trends in automation and robotics as a keynote speaker at RTS2019.

“Our first autonomy research program began in 1985, we had autonomous trucks running by the 1990s, and today we have the world’s single largest fleet of autonomous haul trucks, operating in Australia,” Ms Savage said.

“We believe that someday the complete mining process could be automated — from drilling and digging, to loading, hauling, processing and transporting mined materials,” Ms Savage said.

“We envision an operation where most of the equipment is autonomous, which will contribute to major gains in safety and efficiency. And we’re building those solutions.”

Ms Savage said Caterpillar had built on its strengths as an early adopter of automation, and now had the world’s single largest fleet of autonomous haul trucks — in Australia.

It is part of a worldwide fleet of 220 autonomous trucks in service for seven customers across 11 sites, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week on three continents.

To date, those trucks have travelled more than 50 million kilometres to haul 1.5 billion tonnes without a single lost-time injury, with reported productivity increases nearing 30 per cent and reductions in the frequency of safety incidents by as much as 50 per cent.

“We think the journey to fully autonomous mining is far from over,” Ms Savage said.

“Research and development are ongoing, and Caterpillar continually looks for new technology breakthroughs.

“We continue to build relationships with other best-in-class technology providers and finding opportunities to work together to help us bring new offerings to the industry and rapidly deliver solutions.”

To achieve that, Ms Savage said Caterpillar was working with universities and inside and outside of its current workforce to find and develop the people who will take the technology to the next level.

“There are many opportunities for us to work together with others in mining automation — not only providing products, but also sharing our expertise and working alongside them as they navigate the people and process changes that are the key to maximising the benefits of technology and automation,” she said.

“We need engineers focused on automation and mining to help us research and develop new offerings, as well as talented people to work on site with our customers to make sure they’re getting the full benefit of what technology and automation can do for their operations,” she said.

Locally, WesTrac — which distributes Caterpillar equipment in Australia — is helping miners work smarter, safer and more sustainably. WesTrac chief executive Jarvas Croome said the technology being adopted was second to none.

“The work we are doing to provide autonomous solutions and a range of other technology to enable our customers to be more effective in their operations is cutting edge — not just in Australia or in our industry, but across the board globally,” he said.