Rio Tinto is working with Scania to make the Dampier Salt operation in Western Australia a safer environment by testing an autonomous transport system.
The first phase of the trial, which started in August, has involved a Scania XT 8×4 autonomous tipper truck that has worked separately from active operations at Dampier.
During the initial stage, a safety driver has been riding in the vehicle to observe the truck’s performance and intervenes if necessary.
Rio Tinto will add more autonomous Scania trucks in subsequent phases to develop vehicle-vehicle awareness and intelligent fleet supervisory controls.
Rob Atkinson, Rio Tinto head of productivity and technical support, said the trial had potential to give the company more flexibility in the way it operated across a number of areas.
“We have seen automation create safer and more efficient operations in our business and this is a next step in evaluating options for delivering further improvements through the use of technology,” Atkinson said.
Rio Tinto is already a leading user of automation in the mining industry with autonomous trucks, trains and drills at its operations in Western Australia.
Scania head of mining Björn Winblad said mining sites were ideal for testing new autonomous technology given their high vehicle utilisation.
“The industry can reap the safety and productivity benefits of automation, and the experience gained here will be instrumental in developing fully autonomous solutions for other transport applications,” Winblad said.
“It is very encouraging to note that the truck has been performing in a safe manner and in accordance with expectations with regards to the operations.”
Scania Australia launched the XT mining and construction truck range in October.