Tom Albanese,
CEO,
Rio Tinto
 
London, England — MININGREVIEW.COM — 17 June 2008 – Following successful trials, leading international mining group Rio Tinto is to invest US$371 million (R2.9 billion) to automate its iron ore railway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

A company media release issued here said that within five years driverless trains would be operating on most of the 1 300km of track that serves the Pilbara operations, helping Rio Tinto meet its goal of expanding annual iron ore production to 320 million tonnes in 2012.

Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese commented: “I am committed to making our vision of the ‘mine of the future’ a reality, and automation of our rail network is an important step towards this end. This innovation will allow us to deliver more tonnes faster to meet the continuing surge in demand for iron ore from China and other emerging economies.”

Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Sam Walsh said: “Our immediate goal is to ensure the continued safety of our rail operations while implementing leading technology. Additional safety systems are being developed to meet safety levels required for automatic trains. The level of safety protection at level crossings is also being upgraded well above the standards required by legislation,” he added.

A typical loaded train on Rio Tinto’s network weighs around 30 000 tonnes, is 2.4km long and travels at speeds of up to 75km per hour. On average, 320 train journeys are made across this network every week. The average cycle time for an iron ore train is 33 hours and there is a train movement about every 25 minutes along the line.