Mining group Rio Tinto has begun work on overhauling its operations to roll out an automated and integrated ‘mine of the future’ over the course of the next two years.
The Australia-based, London-headquartered group plans to establish a remote operations centre in Perth, Western Australia, to manage operations in its Pilbara mines hundreds of miles away.
And it said remote-control ‘intelligent’ trains, drills and drucks would be operational within the group’s iron ore mining operations this year.
“Humans will no longer need to be hands-on as all this equipment will be ‘autonomous’ – able to make decisions on what to do based on their environment and interaction with other machines. Operators will oversee the equipment from the remote operations centre,” it said.
Chief executive Tom Albanese said Rio Tinto was “changing the face of mining.”
“We have at least a three-year start on the rest of the industry, which has focused on discrete technologies rather than modernising the whole mine-to-port operation.”
Rio Tinto’s planned operations centre is due to open next year. Once completed, it will house at least 320 employees, who will work with their Pilbara-based colleagues to oversee, operate and optimise the use of key assets and processes, including all mines, processing plants, the rail network, ports and power plants.
The group said its plan for ‘intelligent’ driverless trains would see it introduce the Komatsu Autonomous Haulage system, which would allow for a fleet of 320 tonne off-highway trucks to be operated without drivers.
The system will be commissioned before the end of the year and is expected to be more widely deployed by 2010.