Driverless Trains Will Transform The Mining Industry

Rio Tinto launches the world’s first automated carts that will increase safety but cost over 500 workers their jobs.

Iron-ore mining company Rio Tinto has revealed plans for a fully automated train network in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The project, which is estimated to cost $US 518m, will be the world’s first automated long-distance heavy-haul rail operation. Rio Tinto’s chief executive Sam Walsh said automated trains and trucks would help the company address significant skills shortage facing the industry while improving productivity at its iron ore operations. At the same time, however, the project will displace as many as 500 train drivers from their jobs. Mr Walsh said of the plans:

As we expand our business we will see an overall increase in job numbers and this will provide new opportunities in the rail division and elsewhere. As always, we will engage directly with those affected as we gradually make the transition to automation over the next three years.

The project, AutoHaul is only the beginning of the Mine of the Future program, which includes driverless trucks and autonomous drills, and eventually a wholly automated mine. The driverless trains are set to launch in 2014, with approval from government and other agencies.

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