Rio Tinto has approved a $483 million plan to introduce driverless trains to its iron ore operations within three years.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald the plan will see 41 trains the company uses in the Pilbara retrofitted with software to make them autonomous.
The company said the move would increase safety and deliver better efficiencies in fuel and scheduling.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald Rio Tinto Pilbara operations president Greg Lilleyman said the move would not result in overall job losses.
”We’ve got 10,500 employees [in the Pilbara] today and over the coming few years that number will grow,” he said.
Lilleyman said while some roles would change, the company’s overall workforce was expected to grow while automation was introduced.
CFMEU mining and energy division WA secretary Gary Wood told the Sydney Morning Herald autonomous vehicles were taking the jobs of some workers.
He said once the boom ended there would be a “definite loss of jobs”.
Earlier this month a report by BAEconomics commissioned by Rio Tinto said fears automation would kill jobs were “misplaced”.
The report said the technology would keep Australian miners globally competitive, helping to expand the business and create more jobs and more mines.
While Rio is aggressively moving into automation in the Pilbara it is not alone, with Hancock Prospecting recently advertising for a manager to implement an autonomous system at its Roy Hill mine in the Pilbara.
Rio Tinto’s first autonomous trains will be operating in 2014 with the program fully installed by 2015.
Image: Rio Tinto