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Rio Tinto orders robot trucks for ground-breaking new intelligent mine

Rio Tinto orders robot trucks for ground-breaking new intelligent mine article image

Mining giant Rio Tinto has ordered a fleet of autonomous robot trucks for its forthcoming $2.6 billion “intelligent mine” Koodaideri in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto will buy 20 autonomous 793F trucks as well as four autonomous blast drills from Caterpillar and the heavy equipment maker’s Western Australian dealer WesTrac.

Beyond the autonomous fleet, Caterpillar will also provide loaders, dozers, graders, water carts and diggers for the new operation, Rio Tinto said in a statement.

Koodaideri will be Rio Tinto's first Pilbara mine to be primarily operated using Caterpillar machinery.

The two companies have also agreed to study the potential for increased levels of automation of heavy mining equipment at the mine in the future.

Koodaideri will have a strong focus on automation and digitisation.

The partnership with Caterpillar at Koodaideri enhances Rio Tinto's industry-leading Mine of the Future program which connects all components of the mining value chain for the first time.

Caterpillar's machinery will be integrated with Rio Tinto's Mine Automation System (MAS), which collects and enhances data created by the company's mining operations, to improve productivity across Rio Tinto's entire iron ore network.

Creating new jobs

WesTrac estimate the work will create 50 new WA-based roles across project management, product support and technical support, as well as technical trades and apprentices.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said Koodaideri would become the most technology-enabled and innovative mine in our Pilbara iron ore network.

"Technology is rapidly changing our mining operations as we harness innovation to make our operations safer, smarter and more productive,” Mr Salisbury said.

“This extension of our partnership with Caterpillar and WesTrac represents an exciting step for our business.

"The development and adoption of technology will continue to change the way we work and we remain committed to providing opportunities for new roles, new skills, redeployment and retraining. Our partnership with the Western Australian government and South Metropolitan TAFE is working to develop the first nationally recognised certificates in automation, helping to ease the industry's transition to the mines of the future."

Koodaideri is about 35km from Rio Tinto's Yandicoogina mine site, and about 110km from the town of Newman. The high tech mine was approved in November last year with construction beginning earlier this year. 

The miner is aiming to create a series of intelligent mines in which all assets are networked together and capable of making decisions themselves in microseconds.

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