Rio Tinto to launch driverless trucks at fifth iron ore mine

Image: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto will expand its autonomous haul truck operations to the West Angelas mine this year, giving it five iron ore sites with the driverless vehicles in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The miner plans to deploy 15 trucks fitted with the Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology at West Angelas from May, with testing and commissioning to begin this month.

Once the trucks have been deployed, Rio’s autonomous fleet at its Pilbara iron ore operations will increase to 100 vehicles.

The autonomous fleet at West Angelas will include Rio’s first retrofitted Komatsu 930E trucks and represents about 25 per cent of the total number of trucks in operation at the mine, which is owned by the Robe River Joint Venture.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury described the deployment as a special achievement after the company first trialled AHS in Australia at the West Angelas mine 10 years ago, paving the way for its current fleet.

“Rio Tinto has led the way in automation and has been on this journey for more than a decade. We’ve successfully managed the challenges and opportunities that automation technology presents and have a track record of reskilling, upskilling and redeploying our people,” Salisbury said.

“Technology will continue to change the way we work, new career pathways will be created and our adaptability and innovation in training and development will be key to our success.”

Since the trials in 2008, Rio’s autonomous haul trucks have moved more than one billion tonnes of ore and waste material.

In December, Rio approved retrofit programs to add the technology to 48 existing Komatsu and Caterpillar haul trucks over the next two years.