Rio Tinto launches world-first autonomous heavy-haul train network

By Sarah Smith

Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has announced the deployment of its fully-automated AutoHaul train network in Pilbara, Western Australia

The AU$940mn project will see automated heavy-haul trains transporting iron ore to Rio Tinto’s port facilities.

Rio Tinto said in its 28 December press release that the automated train network is the first heavy-haul, long-distance rail operation in the world, with an average return distance of 800km over a 40-hour journey cycle which includes loading and dumping.

Each autonomous train is fitted with cameras to enable remote monitoring from Rio Tinto’s operations centre, while every public rail crossing has been upgraded to maximise safety.

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“The safe and successful deployment of AutoHaul™ across our network is a strong reflection of the pioneering spirit inside Rio Tinto,” said Ivan Vella, Managing Director of Rail, Port and Core Services at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, in the press release.

“It’s been a challenging journey to automate a rail network of this size and scale in a remote location like the Pilbara, but early results indicate significant potential to improve productivity, providing increased system flexibility and reducing bottlenecks.”

Rio Tinto added that it will continue to review the network over the coming months to maximise operational efficiency and value, and stated that AutoHaul’s deployment is not expected to result in any redundancies in 2019.

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