Automated installation of primary roof support material can potentially increase productivity and operator safety in the roadway development process within underground coal mining. Although the broader manufacturing sector has benefited from automation, several challenges exist within the Australian underground coal industry which makes it difficult to fully exploit these technologies. At the University of Wollongong a series of reprogrammable electromechanical manipulators have been designed to overcome these challenges and automatically handle the installation of roof and rib containment consumables on a continuous miner. The automated manipulation removes personnel from hazards in the immediate face area, particularly those associated with working in a confined and unstable working environment in close proximity to rotating and moving equipment. In a series of above ground trials the automated system was successfully demonstrated without human intervention and proven to be capable of achieving cycle times at a rate of 10 m per operating hour, consistent with that required to support high capacity longwall mines. The trials also identified a number of refinements which could further improve both cycle times and system reliability when considering the technology for underground use. The results have concluded that conventional manual handling practices on a continuous miner can be eliminated, and that the prototypes have significantly reduced the technical risk in proceeding to a full underground trial. © 2013 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of China University of Mining & Technology.