Rio Tinto is on schedule to fully commission its autonomous rail programme, AutoHaul, next year after completing a pilot run at its iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The 100km trial run marked the first fully autonomous heavy haul train journey ever completed in Australia, undertaken without a driver on-board.
The programme covered the region between Wombat Junction and Paraburdoo, and was conducted under the supervision of Rio Tinto teams and representatives from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator.
Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said: “This successful pilot run puts us firmly on track to meet our goal of operating the world’s first fully autonomous heavy haul, long-distance rail network, which will unlock significant safety and productivity benefits for the business.
“Gains from AutoHaul are already being realised, including reduced variability and increased speed across the network, helping to reduce average cycle times.”
The AutoHaul project is focused on automating trains that transport iron ore to the company’s port facilities. Full commissioning is subject to meeting agreed safety and acceptance criteria, as well as obtaining regulatory approvals.
Salisbury added: “Rio Tinto is proud to be a leader in innovation and autonomous technology in the global mining industry, which is delivering long-term competitive advantages as we build the mines of the future. New roles are being created to manage our future operations and we are preparing our current workforce for new ways of working to ensure they remain part of our industry.”
The company’s push towards automation technology and innovation is directed at enhancing safety and productivity.