Rio Tinto finalises Pilbara autonomous train deployment

The AutoHaul loaded train. Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has completed the roll out of the AutoHaul autonomous freight train system across its iron ore operations in Western Australia.

AutoHaul completed its first successful run in the Pilbara region in July last year.

The system averaged 34 trains a day by October last year and has since travelled over one million kilometres.

The AutoHaul program cost around $US940 million ($1.2 billion) and is the latest element in Rio Tinto’s autonomy-focused Mine of the Future program, which launched in 2008 with an initial focus on autonomous haul trucks.

Over the decade since its announcement, the program has expanded to incorporate drills, trains and even smaller vehicles such as light trucks.

In August 2018, Scania launched a trial of its autonomous XT tipper truck system at Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt operation in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director for rail, port and core services Ivan Vella said AutoHaul’s early results indicated “significant potential” to improve productivity and reduce bottlenecks.

He also indicated that the system could co-exist with the company’s current train staff.

“Over the coming months we will continue to refine our autonomous operations to ensure we are able to maximise value,” he said.

“We continue to work closely with drivers during this period and do not expect to make any redundancies in 2019 as a result of the deployment of AutoHaul.”