Rio Tinto reaches autonomous truck milestone

One billion tonnes of ore and waste hauled by trucks equipped with Autonomous Haulage System technology

Rio Tinto’s Australian fleet of autonomous trucks have hauled their one billionth tonne of material, the resources company announced today.

“Hauling one billion tonnes autonomously is an impressive milestone for our business and again highlights Rio Tinto’s pioneering spirit when it comes to adopting revolutionary new technologies which are making the industry safer and more efficient,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said in a statement.

Rio Tinto began trial operations of trucks fitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology in 2008.  

In December the company revealed it would expand its autonomous fleet, used across five sites in the Pilbara, by more than 50 per cent by 2019.

Rio Tinto signed agreements with Caterpillar and Komatsu to retrofit trucks with AHS technology, beginning this year. The company said it expected project to make a “significant contribution” to its $5 billion productivity program.

The retrofit program will increase to around 30 per cent the proportion of the miner’s Pilbara haulage truck fleet fitted with AHS technology. Currently around a fifth of Rio Tinto’s 400 haul trucks in the Pilbara use AHS technology.

Rio Tinto said that last year its autonomous fleet accounted for around a quarter of the total ore and waste material moved across its Pilbara mines.

“We remain committed to working closely with our employees as we expand our autonomous haul truck fleet including providing opportunities for new roles, redeployment, retraining and upskilling,” Salisbury said.

Rio Tinto has estimated that last year on average each AHS-equipped truck operated for around 700 hours longer than conventional trucks and delivered 15 per cent lower load and haul unit costs.

The company indicated earlier this month that its autonomous railway project — AutoHaul — is on track for completion by the end of 2018.

Rio Tinto has said that the project will enable it to increase its shipped iron ore tonnages to 353 million tonnes per annum.

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