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Collie named site for Caterpillar and WesTrac’s first autonomous truck training centre outside US

Josh ZimmermanThe West Australian
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The centre will be only the second Caterpillar autonomous training facility in the world.
Camera IconThe centre will be only the second Caterpillar autonomous training facility in the world. Credit: supplied

The first autonomous truck training facility in the southern hemisphere will be built in Collie and is expected to attract more than 300 students to the South West town each year as it transitions to life after coal.

Announced this morning, the WesTrac facility is expected to draw visitors from around the world interested in advancing the automation of mining operations.

The McGowan Government has tipped $2.7 million into the project, to be based at the Coolangatta Industrial Estate, from its $20 million Collie Futures Fund.

The centre will be only the second Caterpillar autonomous training facility in the world and will be modelled on the company’s own training and testing ground in Arizona.

Local contractor Piacentini & Son will build the facility, which is expected to welcome its first crop of students, who will learn how to maintain and operate autonomous mining vehicles, in May 2020.

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“The initial focus will be to provide training in fit-out and maintenance requirements for the conversion and operation of existing Caterpillar haulage vehicles,” Mr Croome said.

“Over time, we anticipate expanding the range of courses on offer to ensure the facility caters for the recognised skills of the future that will be in demand as the resource sector evolves.

“It’s an opportunity to position Collie and Western Australia as a world leader in advanced technology and skills development in automation and autonomous operations.”

An historic coal mining town, Collie has faced an uncertain future with the global trend towards cleaner sources of energy.

The phased shutdown of nearby coal-fired Muja Power Station from 2022 has added to those concerns but Premier Mark McGowan said the new training facility would continue Collie’s history as an industrial hub.

“My Government is focused on ensuring Collie’s long-term prosperity, by creating sustainable jobs in a strong, diverse local economy,” he said.

“This is a new industry for Collie and Western Australia that will result in new jobs and training opportunities for local people, while meeting demand from around Australia and overseas.”

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the Collie Futures Fund was delivering on its intended purpose of “job creation and broadening the economic base” of the town.

Mr Croome said WesTrac and Caterpillar clients across the Asia-Pacific region had shown interest in having access to the training on offer at the facility and strong demand was expected when it commenced operations.

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