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Rio Tinto to double autonomous drill fleet

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As we’ve written previously here at EngineeringPro, Rio Tinto is leading the charge of autonomous technology in the mining industry. They’ve just charged further ahead on this agenda with the announcement that it intends to double its fleet of autonomous drills in order to create a safer working environment and boost productivity.
Rio Tinto's operations in the Pilbara.
(Rio Tinto’s operations in the Pilbara. Image via Rio Tinto).

At present Rio’s autonomous drill fleet consists of seven drills in operation at the West Angelas mine in the Pilbara, Western Australia. In addition, Rio retrofitted four drills with autonomous drill system (ADS) technology at the Yandicoogina mine in Pilbara. So far, Rio Tinto’s 11 automated drills have drilled more than 5000km.

With nine more autonomous drills to be introduced by the end of the year, Rio will have an autonomous fleet totalling 20 drills.

Speaking about the plans, Kellie Parker, Rio Tinto managing director, planning, integration and assets, iron ore, said:

“The deployment of additional rigs, operated from our operations centre in Perth, offers significant advantages as part of our integrated system, which optimises our autonomous trains, trucks and drills and provides increased operability and flexibility.”

“As pioneers of automation and innovation, we continue exploring new technologies to ensure Rio Tinto remains a leader in the global mining industry.”

Naturally, talk of automation brings speculation about potential job losses, however Rio Tinto have been quick to respond that the move won’t cost jobs. A spokesman speaking to WA Today said that ‘the company had a good track record in retraining and redeployment, including a recently announced partnerships with the state government to establish nationally accredited courses in automation from next year’.

With Rio Tinto leading the way on mining automation, competitors such as BHP, Fortescue and Roy Hill have also announced plans to introduce various aspects of their operations including drills, trucks and trains.

Don’t just read about mining projects- work on them!

If you’re looking for your next job in the mining industry, explore Fircroft’s current vacancies with a diverse range of Australian mining corporations and engineering houses today.
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Rio Tinto to double autonomous drill fleet - Time to read 2 min
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