Rise of the machines

RIO Tinto’s robot trucks have started hauling high-grade ore at the Yandicoogina mine in Western Australia.
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Komatsu 930E autonomous haul trucks working at Rio Tinto's West Angelas mine.

Staff Reporter

So far Rio’s driverless Komatsu 930E haul trucks have only been hauling waste.

The Junction South East pit has a fleet of 10 Komatsu 930E driverless haul trucks that will move the ore.

Rio reckons this is a major step towards full operational deployment of the projects.

The trucks will be used for all haulage requirements in the pit, moving both high and low grade ore as well as waste material from multiple loading units.

The deployment of the driverless truck fleet forms a major part of Rio’s Mine of the Future program.

The company has bought 150 driverless trucks for its Pilbara operations. It plans to replace half of its Pilbara truck fleet driverless by 2015.

Besides helping alleviate shortages of skilled drivers, the autonomous haul trucks also have the benefit of requiring less maintenance than their conventionally driven brethren. The autonomous system is much easier on the trucks than human drivers.

There also are potential savings in accommodation and on the costs associated with fly-in, fly-out.

There are obvious opportunities for Rio to extend the driverless program beyond its iron ore mines in Western Australia’s Pilbara. They could, for example, be easily deployed to some of its surface coal operations.

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