Mining giant Rio Tinto has successfully piloted a driverless mine train in Western Australia.
Running 100km from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo, the AutoHaul project is expected to go fully online by the end of 2018.
Currently, around half of Rio Tinto’s freight rail miles in Australia are driven on autonomous mode, but with a driver on board.
The journey was closely monitored in real-time by Rio Tinto teams and representatives of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, both on the ground and at the Operations Centre in Perth.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said: “This successful pilot run puts us firmly on track to meet our goal of operating the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network, which will unlock significant safety and productivity benefits for the business.
“Gains from AutoHaul are already being realised including reduced variability and increased speed across the network, helping to reduce average cycle times.
“Rio Tinto is proud to be a leader in innovation and autonomous technology in the global mining industry which is delivering long-term competitive advantages as we build the mines of the future. New roles are being created to manage our future operations and we are preparing our current workforce for new ways of working to ensure they remain part of our industry.”
Rio Tinto operates about 200 locomotives on more than 1,700 kilometres of track in the Pilbara, transporting ore from 16 mines to four port terminals.