Rio Tinto to expand autonomous drill rig fleet at Pilbara operations

2 May 2018 (Last Updated May 2nd, 2018 12:02)

Rio Tinto has revealed plans to double its fleet of autonomous production drill rigs in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Rio Tinto to expand autonomous drill rig fleet at Pilbara operations
Rio Tinto’s operations in the Pilbara. Credit: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has revealed plans to double its fleet of autonomous production drill rigs in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The development forms part of the company’s strategy to increase its autonomous operations in the area.

The doubling of the fleet is anticipated to enable Rio Tinto to increase the productivity of its iron-ore operations, as well as improve the accuracy, consistency and safety of its drilling activities.

"As pioneers of automation and innovation, we continue exploring new technologies to ensure Rio Tinto remains a leader in the global mining industry."

A total of four additional drills were recently retrofitted with autonomous drill system (ADS) technology at the Yandicoogina mine in the Pilbara, adding to the existing fleet of seven units that are currently in operation at the West Angelas mine.

Rio Tinto iron ore planning, integration and assets managing director Kellie Parker was quoted by media sources as saying: “The deployment of additional rigs, operated from our operations centre in Perth, offers significant advantages as part of our integrated system, which optimises our autonomous trains, trucks and drills and provides increased operability and flexibility.

“As pioneers of automation and innovation, we continue exploring new technologies to ensure Rio Tinto remains a leader in the global mining industry.”

The company expects to introduce a further nine drills by the end of this year.

The total count of autonomous production drill rigs is expected to increase to 20 following the planned addition.

Rio Tinto is currently focused on the deployment of automated technologies across different areas of its operations.

The company’s driverless train programme, known as the AutoHaul project, is slated to be launched by the end of this year.