Functional safety expert sees autonomous mining tide rising

Mark Siddoway was at the coal-face when Rio Tinto was expanding the world’s most impressive large-scale mine haul truck and drill fleet automation deployment between 2014 and 2018, working with engineers, technicians and operating personnel to optimise autonomous system safety and productivity, and developing Australia’s first functional safety program for autonomous mining operations.

Staff reporter
Mining automation tide is rising

Mining automation tide is rising

Now the new VP Engineering and Safety with Auto-mate in Perth, Western Australia, he's at the front end of a significant shift in the industry's automation implementation focus, and physically in the place where a lot of the action is going to be over the next decade.

"Mining automation is instilled in WA," Siddoway says.

"Most examples of cutting-edge mining automation are in WA, and there is a big and growing customer base for Auto-mate's products and capabilities."

Auto-mate, a joint venture between leading Australian mining services company, Bis Industries and Israeli defence company, Israel Aerospace Industries, is initially targeting ancillary mining vehicles that will be integrated with site primary autonomous mobile fleets, fixed plant and infrastructure, and the remote operating centres increasingly being used to drive productivity and safety improvements.

For that to happen seamlessly and at optimal safety and efficiency levels, miners must adopt open operating-data exchange standards that have accelerated automation gains in other industries, Siddoway says.

"I don't believe that the end customer should have to tolerate a solution where you've got proprietary systems and a proprietary architecture that can't be opened up," he says.

"I see a massive market opportunity for developers and suppliers such as Auto-mate that can offer interoperable solutions, and I see a big market for people developing these interoperable standards, particularly for traffic management systems and fleet management systems.

"It's clear now that these [mine mobile fleet automation] systems are more mature and deployed that there is also a very valuable market in terms of productivity and safety for the ancillary vehicles in an autonomous mine - water carts, dozers, graders, and light vehicles, so going forward I see the market opening up. I see a higher level of automation on mine sites, and I see more interoperable solutions developing, solutions that can accommodate these ancillary vehicles and produce a more automated mine. In such autonomous environments, existing safety protocols may be inadequate.

"Everything we do has to be safe. Safety has to be built in from the outset, and regulatory compliance has to be considered from the outset.

"At Rio Tinto I was responsible for implementing the functional safety standards in compliance with the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety's Code of Practice for Safe Mobile Autonomous Mining in WA. I'm a certified Functional Safety Engineer, deemed competent in the application of AS 61508, which is the functional safety standard recommended by DMIRS in the Code of Practice. I'm also experienced in ISO 17757, the standard for autonomous and semi-autonomous earthmoving equipment, and the functional safety standard for road-going autonomous vehicles, ISO 26262.


Mark Siddoway: "We offer a new perspective on automation"

"Auto-mate provides open, flexible, scaleable technology that provides accessibility for large and small mining operations to the benefits of automation. And we can do so safely."

Siddoway, a systems engineer who has worked in the defence, automotive and mining industries in a 30-year career, spent time at Rio Tinto, Caterpillar, Calibre and Wenco on BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto automation projects in roles focused on compliance assurance and managing onsite technology, including  the conversion of manual haul trucks to autonomous operation.

"I've seen a move away from the initial implementations of the two dominant players, the OEM providers, providing installations of their own standalone closed architecture solutions. As those systems have been deployed it's clear that interoperability has become a big issue for the end user," Siddoway says.

"We offer a new perspective on automation. We're not selling closed-sourced products. We're flexible and recognise customer needs and the standards the regulator and customer expect. We're designing for compliance and developing to meet customer needs.

"We have the fantastic experience and engineering capability of IAI, one of the JV partners, and  we've got the flexibility of an onsite presence in WA that understands the mining market."



The global mining industry is a rapidly shifting landscape, where innovation is key to driving efficiency and productivity. In application since the early 1980s on over 35 different types of assets (including mining trucks, light vehicles and dozers), Auto-mate technology delivers any level of automation to any asset, regardless of the make, model or age of the fleet. The technology is highly flexible and seamlessly integrates into any mine site operation and fleet management systems.

With over two centuries of combined experience from their joint venture partners Bis and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Auto-mate is proud to deliver an industry disruptor in mining automation.


  • Level 1, Brightwater House, 355 Scarborough Beach Rd, Osborne Park WA 6017
  • Phone: + 61 08 9202 5811
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  • Daniel Poller, CEO

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