April 21, 2016

Rio Tinto Pilbara train automation project delayed

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GLOBAL mining company Rio Tinto said in its first-quarter operation review published on April 19 that its AutoHaul project to convert its Tom Price heavy-haul railway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia to driverless operation is taking longer than expected.


Rio Tinto was due to submit AutoHaul for regulatory approval and complete full system functionality this year, but it says "some delays are being experienced." As a result, Rio Tinto says that iron-ore production in the Pilbara "is now expected to be between 330 and 340 million tonnes in 2017" rather than its earlier forecast of 350 million tonnes.

 

Rio Tinto is investing in automation and other improvements to its heavy-haul lines in the Pilbara so that it can increase capacity without the need to purchase additional rolling stock.

AutoHaul is part of Rio Tinto's Mine of the Future project launched in 2008 which also includes automated trucks and drilling. Testing of AutoHaul started in 2014, and throughout 2015 AutoHaul-fitted locomotives were trialled on the network to test onboard systems, signalling, safety mechanisms and communications with Rio Tinto operations centre in Perth. Rio Tinto says that "over 75,000km of mainline trials have been completed" so far.

Once operational, Rio Tinto says this will be the world's first fully-autonomous heavy-haul, long-distance railway system.

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