Ansaldo STS has won two contracts worth $353 million that will see it upgrade Rio Tinto's railways and introduce a system to control the company's driveless trains.
In a statement Ansaldo said the first $317 million contract would see it develop an "automated train management system" for Rio's Pilbara rail system.
"The automated heavy haul railway, to be completed in 2015, will be the first of its kind in the world and will significantly enhance the flexibility and capacity of Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s mining rail network," it said.
The system will include a central safety server that will coordinate train movements and an on-board driving module, which will allow full automation of the trains.
The second $44.7 million contract will involve a series of efficiency improvements to Rio's rail network.
The work will upgrade the system to support electronically controlled pneumatic braking, which Ansaldo says will "significantly reduce delays" on the network.
Driveless trains are part of Rio's mine of the future plan, which also includes the introduction of automated trucks and drills on its Pilbara mines.
While the company says it expects its Pilbara workforce to continue to grow, the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union says the automated equipment will result in a "definite loss of jobs"