Rio Tinto completes autonomous heavy haul rail pilot

Australia’s inaugural fully automated rail run transports iron ore in the Pilbara region

Rio Tinto completes autonomous heavy haul rail pilot
Rio Tinto's AutoHaul project is focused on fully automating haulage trains.


Australia’s first fully autonomous heavy haul rail journey has been successfully carried out in Western Australia.

The nearly 100-kilometre pilot was conducted by Rio Tinto as part of its AutoHaul project to transport iron ore in the Pilbara region.

The company’s AutoHaul project is focused on fully automating trains that transport iron ore to four port facilities by late 2018.

The project began running trains in autonomous mode (with drivers on-board) in the first quarter of 2017, with currently about 50 per cent of pooled fleet rail kilometres completed in autonomous mode.

The inaugural fully automated rail run was completed without a driver on board, with Rio Tinto teams and representatives of the office of the National Rail Safety Regulator closely monitoring the operations in real-time, both on the ground and at the operations centre in Perth.

Rio Tinto says the pilot run from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo is a "significant step toward full commissioning of AutoHaul in 2018 once all relevant safety and acceptance criteria have been met and regulatory approvals obtained".

"This successful pilot run puts us firmly on track to meet our goal of operating the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network, which will unlock significant safety and productivity benefits for the business," Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury says.

"Gains from AutoHaul are already being realised including reduced variability and increased speed across the network, helping to reduce average cycle times.

"Rio Tinto is proud to be a leader in innovation and autonomous technology in the global mining industry which is delivering long-term competitive advantages as we build the mines of the future.

"New roles are being created to manage our future operations and we are preparing our current workforce for new ways of working to ensure they remain part of our industry."

The company says its focus on automation technology and innovation is improving safety, is better for the environment and boosting productivity.

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