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Mining company Rio Tinto and the University of Sydney have announced a five-year extension to their autonomous mining research partnership.

The two groups have been operating the Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation (RTCMA) based at the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies since 2007.

The centre’s primary focus is to develop and deploy technologies for fully autonomous and remotely operated mining processes.

The partnership extension is expected to support the next phase of the centre’s research into step-change improvements in safety, predictability and precision of typical surface mining operations through automation.

RTCMA director Dr Steve Scheding said: "The range of programmes underway at RTCMA crosses areas such as sensing, machine learning, data fusion and systems engineering.

"The centre’s work so far has resulted in a number of major research advancements targeted at improving the safety and productivity of autonomous operated mining sites."

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By GlobalData

As part of a project, mining drill rigs have been created that can bore holes into the ore body reliably and also allow the rig operator to be located in a safer area of the mine site.

"Our technology professionals have worked alongside top-notch research minds to achieve our goals."

The rigs will also allow for the continuation of training programmes for automation engineers and technicians.

Rio Tinto innovation head John McGagh said: "Our technology professionals have worked alongside top-notch research minds to achieve our goals.

"With mining increasingly taking place in remote parts of the world, tomorrow’s mines are likely to rely on remote monitoring and control, with employees running the mines from cities thousands of kilometres away."

Image: Rio Tinto’s Australian headquarters in Melbourne. Photo: courtesy of Canley.