Mine Automation and Emerging Technologies Health and Safety Partnership

Keywords: Automation

This partnership addresses issues pertaining to the health and safety implications of automation and emerging technologies in mining operations.

Upcoming meetings

  • May 11, 2021 - 1 to 2 p.m. ET (10 to 11 a.m. PT) - a virtual meeting to discuss agenda ideas for the August 2021 partnership meeting

Past meetings

Partnership Charter

Purpose and Goals

The mining industry is undergoing significant changes as mining companies are adopting automation and other advanced technologies to decrease costs, increase efficiency, and improve safety. These technologies include autonomous vehicles, wireless communications, digital sensors, human-machine interfaces, and data analytics. In the US, the adoption of these technologies is growing, with both surface and underground mines implementing or planning to implement automation technology. The introduction of these technologies into mining will potentially affect worker health and safety and NIOSH seeks to proactively address these issues.

Input from stakeholders is crucial for the success of NIOSH research. This forum would provide an opportunity for industry, manufacturers, academia and others who are working on autonomous mobile equipment and associated technologies to discuss the state of the technology, research findings, health and safety concerns, and regulatory considerations. It would also provide a communications channel for stakeholders to deliver input to NIOSH on research gaps with respect to these topics. Several mining stakeholders have requested a forum to exchange information – with near-term emphasis on two areas: autonomous mobile equipment safety and collision avoidance systems.

The partnership is neither constituted to carry out negotiated rulemaking; nor to function as a federal advisory committee. The specific goals of the partnership are as follows:

  • Provide a forum for providing input on health and safety concerns, research gaps, and technologically and economically feasible technical direction with respect to automation, collision avoidance, and other emerging technologies.
  • Provide a forum for review, evaluation and discussion of specific technical and scientific questions, such as those posed in the MSHA Request for Information on Safety Improvement Technologies for Mobile Equipment at Surface Mines (Docket MSHA-2018-0016), and the NIOSH Request for Information on Mining Automation and Safety Research Prioritization (Docket CDC-2019-0016). This includes identifying existing controls and best practices used by mine operators and other industries to minimize mine worker exposure to hazards associated with automated machines and maximize the benefits of new technology.
  • Provide a forum for the exchange of the scientific findings on the implementation of automation technologies on mobile equipment, including full and supervised autonomy, and collision avoidance systems for surface mining equipment.
  • Provide a forum for industry, manufacturers, academia, and others to present their research, system development, testing, and implementation activities and progress.

The partnership will operate with the following principles:

  • Use the latest and best available scientific methods and procedures in the accomplishment of the work.
  •  Work closely, openly, and in a spirit of cooperation with all organizations.

Partnership Composition

The partnership will be organized and managed by the NIOSH Mining Program. Invited organizations will include representatives from labor, industry, trade associations, equipment and technology manufacturers, academia, health and safety professionals, and State and Federal organizations (e.g. MSHA). Because of common research themes and health and safety issues, close cooperation will be needed with both the NIOSH Center for Occupational Robotics Research and the NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety. Consideration will be given by the partnership members for organizing working groups to address specific interests if needed.

Partnership Contact

Todd Ruff, 509-354-8003


Page last reviewed: 4/21/2021 Page last updated: 10/12/2020