Rio Tinto’s autonomous trucks pass one billion tonne milestone

Image: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has announced that its fleet of autonomous haul trucks, which encompass over 80 Komatsu vehicles and may increase to over 140 vehicles by 2020, have passed a significant milestone; since 2008, Rio’s autonomous haulage system (AHS) has shifted over one billion tonnes of ore and waste material  within the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Chris Salisbury, Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive, called it an impressive milestone for the business. He explained that the the company’s planned expansion of its AHS fleet would provide opportunities for new roles, retraining, upskilling and redeployment.

This expansion would include retrofitting 48 Komatsu and Caterpillar trucks with AHS tech, the first of which was deployed at the Hope Downs 4 mine last September.

Rio said last year it planned to retrofit 29 Komatsu haul trucks with the AHS technology at the Brockman 4 operation, which will run entirely in AHS mode once this project has been completed by 2019.

The company will also retrofit 19 793F trucks with Caterpillar at the Marandoo iron ore mine.

“We are studying future additions to our autonomous truck fleet that we expect will contribute to our $5 billion productivity programme, specifically iron ore’s commitment to deliver $500 million of additional free cash flow from 2021 onwards,” Salisbury said.

The company has recorded no injuries related to its AHS fleet in the near 10 years since its inception.

Rio’s autonomous haul trucks, on average, operated an additional 1000 hours and at 15 per cent lower load and haul unit cost than conventional haul trucks in 2016.