CALGARY, Alta. — Suncor today announced it will proceed with the phased implementation of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) at company-operated mines.
Over the next six years, the company plans to deploy more than 150 autonomous haul trucks in the full program — one of the largest investments in electric autonomous vehicles in the world.
“Suncor was the first company to transition from bucketwheel to truck and shovel operations in the early 1990s and we’re continuing to be on the leading edge of oil sands technologies today,” said Mark Little, chief operating officer, Suncor. “To be the very first company to test these systems and implement them at a commercial scale in our oil sands mining operations speaks to our long history of embracing and implementing game changing technologies – it’s simply part of our DNA…safety is our number one value at Suncor. Autonomous haulage systems reduce interaction between people and equipment, which decreases incident rates and injury potential – helping us ensure everyone goes home safely at the end of every day.”
The union representing workers at Suncor say replacing hundreds of heavy machine operators with driverless trucks would be a mistake.
“Highly experienced and capable operators will always need to play a role in Oilsands extraction, and it is a mistake to think otherwise,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president.
Unifor will be organizing a national conference to explore strategies to deal with new technologies. It will include a cross-section of union and industry leaders to assist in developing a deeper understanding of how technology will continue to affect jobs.
“The nature of work will always evolve, but government regulation must keep pace,” said Dias. “There must be a benefit to all Albertans for their partnerships with extraction companies. In cases where displacement is unavoidable, a just transition must be a top priority.
According to Suncor, current plans show that the earliest it would see a decrease in heavy equipment operator positions at base plant operations is 2019.