London, England — MININGREVIEW.COM — 03 November 2011 – Mining giant Rio Tinto is set to become the owner of the world’s largest fleet of driverless trucks, having signed an agreement for the purchase of at least 150 of the vehicles from Komatsu Limited over the next four years.

A Rio Tinto release issued here said the new trucks, which would start arriving in 2012, would be used in the company’s Pilbara iron ore mines in Western Australia, and could be controlled from its operations centre in Perth more than 1,500km away. The move signalled a 15-fold expansion from its previous plan to double the fleet to 10 trucks.  

The release explained that this was the latest development in Rio Tinto’s Mine of the FutureTM programme, which introduced next-generation technologies for mining operations with the aim of reducing costs, increasing efficiency and improving health, safety and environmental performance.

Implementing autonomous haulage on this scale meant more material could be moved more quickly and safely, creating a direct increase in productivity, it added.

In Tokyo Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese and Komatsu Limited president and CEO Kunio Noji, signed a memorandum of understanding for the supply and purchase of the trucks.

Albanese said: “Autonomous haulage is an important component in our Mine of the FutureTM programme.These 150 new trucks will work with our pioneering operations centre that integrates and manages the logistics of 14 mines, three ports and two railways. These technologies are revolutionising the way large-scale mining is done, creating attractive hi-tech jobs, and helping us to improve safety and environmental performance and reduce carbon emissions.”

Noji added: “We are confident that our leading-edge AHS Technology will accelerate Rio Tinto’s Mine of the FutureTM objectives through improving safety and mine operations.”

Rio Tinto has been testing the Komatsu autonomous haulage system “’ the world’s first commercial autonomous mining haulage system “’ in the Pilbara since December 2008. During the trials the AHS technology demonstrated benefits in health, safety and productivity.