Rio Tinto’s fully autonomous AutoHaul automated railway system has completed the initial journey in the Pilbara hauling its iron ore to port.
The $518m train plan has been under development in the Pilbara for the past three years, and follows the introduction of 57 autonomous trucks at the company’s iron ore mines in Australia.
According to the company, successful implementation of the system will result in the loss of jobs for those who currently operate the iron ore trains.
The launch of the Pilbara network is expected to involve 41 autonomous trains by the second half of 2015, in addition to retaining some manually operated trains.
Rio Tinto is currently deciding whether to introduce a broad range of autonomous drill rigs that were earlier tested at its Pilbara mines.
The company said that AutoHaul is a key part of its Mine of the Future programme and would facilitate the additional capacity required during rapid expansions.
Systems are equipped with radar, sensory equipment and mapping technology and can respond to reduce the likelihood of impact when an object is blocking their path.
Claimed to be designed to be safer and cheaper, the systems have less downtime compared with human-operated equipment.
Rio Tinto boasts largest fleet of autonomous trucks in the Pilbara, and uses trucks that are made by Japanese manufacturer Komatsu, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.