Rio Tinto to have world’s largest underground automated system at Argyle

Rio Tinto has announced it will deploy the world's largest underground automation systems at its underground operations at the Argyle diamond mine.

It comes as Argyle plans to implement block caving techniques at the mine.

According to Sandvik, Rio has stated that it will use an AutoMine system at Argyle, which includes 11 LH514E electric loaders and two LH410 diesel loaders that will be operated remotely from a surface control room, and associated software systems.

It also includes the Draw Control product and AutoMine Loading systems.

The AutoMine Draw Control and AutoMine Loading systems are ideally suited for Argyle’s block caving operation. We are honored that Rio Tinto has put their confidence in our AutoMine system to improve their operation safety and efficiency,” Riku Pulli, Sandvik's vice president mine automation, added.

The mining machinery company said that this will be the "largest underground mining automation installation in the world to date".

Sandvik expects to begin deployment of the automated system around the end of this year.

Rio also recently sent trainees from the diamond mine to its Northparkes copper mine in NSW to learn the block caving technique.

The miner explained that Argyle "will be the first block cave mine in Western Australia, and one of only a handful in Australia".

Block caving involves the controlled collapse of ore under its own weight into specially designed chutes for collection, after which it is brought to the surface for processing.

These trainees will use the training complex at Parkes to learn about the method.

Kim Truter, Argyle's managing director, said "the underground block cave offers exciting opportunities to participate in leading edge mining practices". 

The block caving project is expected to extend the mine's life to at least 2019, and will produce nine million tonnes of ore per annum, and around 20 million carats of diamonds per year.

It is part of Rio's massive $800 million project to ramp up its underground operations at Argyle.

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