Rio Tinto completes rollout of world-first autonomous iron ore rail operation

Rio Tinto has completed the rollout of its automated rail network in the Pilbara, Western Australia, which is the first heavy-haul, long distance autonomous rail operation in the world.

The $940 million rail project, titled AutoHaul, focuses on automating trains to transport iron between Rio Tinto’s various port facilities in Pilbara, Western Australia.

The mining giant gained approval from the National Safety Regulator in May to test its autonomous fleet of trains in Western Australia and conducted its first automated mine-to-port delivery of iron ore in July.

Since completing its first delivery of iron ore via the AutoHaul project in July last year, the mining giant has steadily increased the number of autonomous journey across its iron ore operations in Western Australia.

According to Rio Tinto, over 1 million kilometres have been travelled autonomously throughout the duration of the AutoHaul project.

Rio Tinto began implementing automation into its business over a decade ago, at the time introducing fully autonomous haul trucks as one of the first steps in its Mine of the Future program.

Currently, the AutoHaul project uses about 200 locomotives on over 1,700 kilometres of track to transport ore from 16 mines to four port terminals in the Pilbara region. The average return distance of these trains is about 800 kilometres with the average journey cycle, including loading and dumping, taking about 40 hours, according to Rio Tinto.

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