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WA mining innovation advances mine automation


“Western Australia’s world-leading mining technology provides an important part of the knowledge base that will drive WA’s expanding innovation sector,” said Innovation Minister Bill Marmion, while inspecting Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations, where the company’s advanced automation makes it one of the world’s most efficient iron ore production centres.

“This expertise in automation, computing and problem solving provides an ideal springboard for broader innovation, which is exactly what the Government’s $20 million innovation package in the 2016-17 State Budget seeks to encourage to help drive industries across the State,” he said.

“Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future programme is a cross-company, multi-commodity initiative to improve safety and productivity through the use of innovative automated technology. Western Australian workers are playing a vital part in the roll-out of this technology, which is helping to cement our State as a global centre for innovation in the resources sector.”

Mr Marmion visited the Greater Brockman operations near Tom Price, which has a production capacity of approximately 78 million tonnes per year, and includes the Brockman 2, Brockman 4 and Nammuldi mining operations. Rio Tinto’s iron ore group is the world’s largest operator of autonomous trucks, with 30 in use at Nammuldi and another 43 across the company’s Pilbara operations. The trucks have decreased load and haul operating costs by up to 13 per cent, and increased effective utilisation by up to 14 per cent compared with a manned fleet.

Seven fully autonomous drills are also in use across Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations, which use GPS technology to perform precise drilling work 24 hours per day.

Mr Marmion said the company was also working towards installation of the world’s first fully autonomous, heavy haulage, long-distance rail system across 1,500 kilometres of its Pilbara network. “Central to all of this work is the company’s Perth-based operations centre, which acts as a single ‘mission control’ for all autonomous activities,” he said.