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More than a decade ago, mining giant Rio Tinto introduced fully autonomous haul trucks as part of their Mine of the Future program.

Rio Tinto’s former CEO Sam Walsh told zdnet.com how the company revolutionised the industry’s approach to integrated mining.

“I smile when I hear the rush to develop autonomous vehicles by Uber, Google, and pretty well every car company on planet Earth,” said Walsh. “Rio was the first mining company to introduce fully-autonomous haul trucks in 2008.”

Related: Light Vehicle Automation Hits Mine Site in WA

The Future of Mining

And now, Caterpillar will provide Rio Tinto with a fleet of 20 autonomous 793F trucks and 4 autonomous blast drills, through WA dealer WesTrac. This will make Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri iron ore operations in the Pilbara, WA, the company’s most technologically advanced mine.

“We’re pleased to be partnering with Caterpillar and WesTrac to help make Koodaideri the most technology-enabled and innovative mine in our Pilbara iron ore network,” said Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury.

This news follows the completed rollout of their automated rail system in Pilbara: the first heavy-haul autonomous rail operation of its kind in the world.

New Locomotives and wagons operating in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Photographer: Christian Sprogoe Photography. Copyright © 2018 Rio Tinto

Other advancements in Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future program include:

  • A digital replica of the processing plant, accessible in real-time by workers in the field
  • Fully integrated mine automation & simulation systems
  • Advanced automation including an automated workshop
  • Numerous data analytics capabilities & control loops to optimise production & reduce downtime
  • More than 80 autonomous trucks in operation across their Pilbara sites. With plans to reach 140 by the end of 2019
  • 11 ADS-enabled drills have drilled more than 5,000 km—that’s further than the distance from Perth to Queenstown, New Zealand

What do you think about Rio Tinto’s mining program? Let us know in the comments below. Take a look at mining machines available for sale here.

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