Anglo-Australian firm BHP Billiton will expand autonomous truck trial at its Jimblebar iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia to neighboring Wheelarra operations this year.

From mid-2014, the company will use six additional Caterpillar 793-F trucks in the second trial at Wheelarra four pits to dump ore into the newly tied-in Wheelarra crusher.

Use of autonomous haul trucks offers various safety benefits, such as removing people from potentially hazardous environments, increasing the predictability and productivity of haulage operations, and reducing the labor requirement in future mining operations, the company said.

The announcement was made at the official opening of the Jimblebar mine located 40km east of Newman where six trucks have been on trial since August 2013.

BHP Billiton Iron Ore president Jimmy Wilson said extensive planning and research went into designing Jimblebar’s mining operation, with productivity measures and technology central to the design plan.

"Mobile crib rooms and fuelling stations have been positioned closer to the mine pits so our trucks and equipment spend more time moving earth and less time travelling or parked out of action," he added.