Mine of the future In technology we are leading the way in the development of automated mining methods that could revolutionise the way we mine. Our Mine of the Future™ innovation project in the iron ore mines of Western Australia remains a top priority even in these market conditions. With the promise of safety, environmental and productivity gains, it is one of the largest private sector trials of robotics, performing unmanned production drilling and truck haulage tasks in the open pit. Source: Paul Skinner. Chairman and the Chief executive. Rio Tinto. Annual general meeting of shareholders. London. 15 April, 2009
Rio Tinto is a leading international business involved in each stage of metal and mineral production. The Group combines Rio Tinto plc, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
Rio Tinto the first mining company to attempt automating the production value chain and to manage it remotely, started an Operations Centre in Perth to oversee operations some 1,500 kilometres from mines. This Centre will direct remote controlled haul trucks and drills to extract our ore, and driverless trains to carry it to port. Rio Tinto pursues step change innovations in mining and technology, such as remotely operated, autonomous haul trucks. The project forms part of the Technology and Innovation at Rio Tinto.
To meet the massive demand from China, iron ore mines in Western Australia are becoming automated, with driverless vehicles being operated from hundreds of miles away.
Global mining company Rio Tinto has unveiled a A$518m (£327m) plan to pioneer the use of driverless trains in Australia, increasing its bet on a future where machines, rather than miners, do most of the work. The world’s number two iron ore miner, which already has driverless trucks, plans to run fully-automated trains across its 1,500km (940 mile) iron-ore rail network in northwest Australia from 2014, to help boost output by 60% by 2015. The re-fitted trains will be operated like a space mission from a control room in Perth, 1,500km away, from where Rio now runs the driverless trucks.
Greg Lilleyman, president of Rio Tinto’s operations in the Pilbara region, told Sky News: “This isn’t about job losses. “We get productivity gains, it’s helping us tackle the skills shortage we have in Australia and, of course, all of this means it ends up being more cost competitive as well, keeping ahead of the game in what is a pretty tight business model.”
David Booth left Sheffield and its broken steel industry a few years ago. Now, he is a successful plant operator – in a mine he has never visited. He works in the air-conditioned control room, close to Perth’s airport. “It is weird,” he said. “It’s 1,500km away what your operating, but it’s good. It’s technology. It’s where the world’s moving to I guess. “I think they have 150 autonomous trucks that are going to be here – new mines are opening, new train load outs are coming down here, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger.”
Some 40% of the world’s iron ore is produced in Australia. At least half of Rio Tinto’s 500 train drivers may lose their current jobs, with the rest to be used on about one-fifth of the network that will still need drivers. But Rio says no one will be laid off as it aims to retrain workers for new roles. The race is now on to find new areas of Australia to exploit, and again technology is playing a huge part. Source. Sky News; reproduced
Komatsu’s Autonomous Haulage System, FrontRunner, of japanese Komatsu is being deployed at Rio Tinto’s West Angelas Mine, East Pilbara operation, in Western Australia. This is the second deployment of the proprietary system following delivery of the first fleet to Codelco’s copper mines in Chile.
The FrontRunner system is comprised solely of Komatsu mining equipment, specifically, five units of autonomous dump trucks that use the 930E electric drive dump truck as a base machine, as well as a super-large PC5500 hydraulic excavator, D475A bulldozer, WD900 wheel dozer and GD825 motor grader.
The autonomous trucks navigate in the complex mining environment and can haul a 290-tonne (320-U.S.-ton) payload of overburden and ore without a driver. At the West Angelas Mine, the trucks are operated and controlled entirely using a supervisory computer at an operations center. In the future, the trucks will be controlled 24 hours a day from a remote operations center located more than 1,000 km (621 mi) away in Perth. All data from the trucks in use at the mine, including information on the location of the vehicles and their running status, can be verified via the supervisory computer. This is expected to contribute to a significant increase in productivity at the mine where it is difficult to secure sufficient manpower.
Outline of Autonomous Haulage System
Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) is a comprehensive fleet management system for mines. The dump trucks, which are equipped with vehicle controllers, a high-precision global positioning system (GPS), an obstacle detection system and a wireless network system jointly developed by Komatsu Ltd., Komatsu America Corp. and Modular Mining Systems, Inc., are operated and controlled via a supervisory computer, enabling them to be unmanned. Information on target course and speed is sent wirelessly from the supervisory computer to the driverless dump trucks, while the GPS is used to ascertain their position. When loading, the dump trucks are automatically guided to the loading spot after computing the position of the bucket of the GPS-fitted hydraulic excavator or wheel loader. The supervisory computer also sends information on a specific course to the dumping spot.
From a safety perspective, the fleet control system prevents collisions with other dump trucks, service vehicles or other equipment at the mining site. In case an obstacle detection system detects another vehicle or person inside the hauling course under AHS operation, the vehicles will reduce speed or stop immediately, making the system extremely safe and reliable.
In addition, AHS enables stable operation under grueling conditions such as at high altitudes or in sparsely populated, arid desert areas. At the same time, by optimizing operations, the system contributes to reducing maintenance costs, conserving energy and curbing CO2emissions.
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