Rio Tinto: Mine of the Future
Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future™ is no ordinary mine strategy. In fact, it's like nothing the mining world has ever seen. Unveiled in 2008, the futuristic program aims to change the face of mining through the use of autonomous equipment and technology only witnessed in science-fiction films.
The Mine of the Future™, however, is no sci-fi fantasy film.
Rio Tinto is putting the finishing touches on a group-wide initiative that involves next-generation technology and big-data utilization which will ultimately alter mining operations forever.
The goal behind the Mine of the Future™ isn’t necessarily to build one autonomous mine but rather a holistic approach to find new ways to mine and extract minerals more efficiently, while also reducing environmental impact and improving safety.
“Focusing on two key themes – achieving efficiency in surface mining through autonomy and improving recovery practices – the Mine of the Future™ program is aimed at mining safer, better and faster,” says Andrew Harding, chief executive of Rio Tinto’s iron ore division.
The Mine of the Future™ program develops step-change technologies, which include: a centralized operations center for remotely managing operations, autonomous truck haulage, autonomous train operations (AutoHaul™) and autonomous drilling.
The company, which first unleashed its autonomous vehicles in 2008, currently has 54 autonomous trucks operating across three Rio Tinto mine sites in Western Australia.
“We commenced trials in December 2008 at West Angeles and in June 2011, five autonomous haulage trucks were moved from West Angeles operations to Yandicoogina mining operations and combined with five new trucks,” says Harding.
“In July 2012 the autonomous fleet reached a milestone of hauling high grade iron ore at the Yandicoogina mine.”
Rio Tinto launched its operation center in 2009, quickly progressing to autonomous drilling and its revolutionary rail system trials in 2012. Rio Tinto’s AutoHaul™ system is expected to be up and running in 2015.