Rio Tinto expects 50 per cent of its haul truck fleet to be automation ready by the end of this year following the announcement of a $1 billion investment in its Greater Tom Price operations, Western Australia.
As part of the investment, Rio Tinto will fit its haul truck fleet with autonomous haulage system (AHS) technology in the Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 (WTS2) from 2021.
The ongoing deployment of autonomous haulage at Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations is delivering significant safety benefits as well as enhanced productivity and reduced costs.
Rio Tinto, now the world’s largest owner and operator of AHS trucks, said its autonomous haul trucks were operated by a supervisory system and a central controller, rather than a driver.
The trucks use pre-defined GPS courses to automatically navigate haul roads and intersections and know actual locations, speeds and directions of other vehicles at all times.
Rio Tinto has seen an increase in more material being moved efficiently and safely, which increased productivity.
Its investment in the WTS2 operations will facilitate mining of existing and new deposits, including the construction of a new crusher and a 13-kilometre conveyor.
The conveyor system will help lower greenhouse gas emissions from the mine by 3.5 per cent compared with road haulage.
Rio Tinto is also set to access additional options to reduce emissions, including renewable energy solutions.
The company expects construction to begin in the first quarter of 2020 with first ore from the crusher scheduled for 2021, pending final government approvals,
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the company’s iron ore business continued to deliver “industry-leading margins as we drive performance from our mines.”
“This significant investment in the Greater Tom Price hub is one of a pipeline of high-quality, low-cost options that will underpin production of our flagship Pilbara Blend product well into the future,” he said.
Rio Tinto’s investment in the WTS2 mine is set to sustain the current workforce at Rio Tinto’s Greater Tom Price production hub, with its construction workforce expected to exceed more than 1000 people at peak.
Production of high-quality Brockman ore will support the company’s flagship Pilbara Blend, which continues to be the preferred baseload product for Chinese steel mills.
The project is also expected to deliver an attractive internal rate of return with a capital intensity of about $25 a tonne of production capacity.