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Goodna firm enters space race

GABRIELLE WHEATON

NASA is not coming to Ipswich. Why? Because it won't need to thanks to the research of CSIRO and Go 4 Mining at Goodna. Go 4 Mining owner Bruce Leslie said CSIRO had been using its drag line rig, probably the only one of its kind in the world, to conduct tests of its own. Reports in the media stated NASA would come to Ipswich to conduct tests on mining equipment for future use on the moon, but Mr Leslie said these plans had been delayed. Mr Leslie said CSIRO had been conducting research into the automation of mining machines for 10 to 15 years, and were the most advanced in the world. CSIRO senior research scientist Kane Usher said the technology had already been tested on Tuesday, using a NASA researcher working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Scientists are trying to establish the world's first fully automatic remote-controlled drag line system, capable of moving huge amounts of dirt when strip mining. "Mining is going to be the same anywhere ? off-world or here on Earth," Mr Usher said. Mr Usher said the technology had been remotely tested twice so far through a website, the first time in September, and all the results were reported to NASA. "It's just an internet page so it can be operated from anywhere, all you need is Firefox, but obviously the machine has to be on and all our software has to be running," he said. Mr Leslie thought it was good to get exposure because of the agency's involvement and said the technology could save Australia's mining industry up to $100 million a year. Australia has 70 drag lines, about one fifth the number in the western world. Mr Leslie said before Go 4 Mining started designing drag line buckets most equipment came from overseas. "Since we've been doing the designs for a company in Mackay they've picked up 80% of the market," Mr Leslie said. "Queensland is well advanced in drag line research and our work here is easily the highest quality in the world." He explained the majority of drag lining was tedious work, but required a lot of skill, which was why operators would always be needed despite the advances in technology. The automated drag lines would hopefully increase production while also allowing operators a reprieve from the most mundane aspects of the job. "It's high-level task planning where the operator decides where to dig and dump. It makes operation more efficient and makes it easier for an operator to do a really good job ? and who knows, it could end up on the moon," Mr Leslie said.



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