Rio expands autonomous trucks program to fifth mine

Outlined in a report today in The West Australian, Rio Tinto’s iron ore president Chris Salisbury has expanded on the company’s ambitions around automation of the mining giant’s extensive Pilbara operations.

Speaking at a WestBusiness Leadership Matters breakfast in Perth, Salisbury said the company would expand its driverless trucks program to a fifth mine in the Pilbara later this month, with more assets to follow.

Rio’s West Angelas mine, owned by the Robe River Joint Venture, will have 15 trucks fitted with autonomous haulage system technology from May. The figure represents about 25% of the total fleet in operation at West Angelas. More than 25% of Rio’s 380 haul-truck fleet in the Pilbara is already autonomous, with the miner expecting to have more than 130 trucks operating without drivers by next year.

He also noted driverless trucks delivered an extra 700 hours more a year than their manned counterparts, representing an extra month’s work over the course of the year, as well as a perfect safety record.

A decision on its A$2.7 billion Koodaideri mine is due later this year for construction to begin next year. Koodaideri would be Rio’s first “intelligent mine”, using everything the company had learnt in automation and technology over the past 10 years.