Rio Tinto announced on Feb 20 that it will run the world's first automated long-distance heavy-haul rail network, with a US$518 million investment (Rio Tinto share US$478 million) in driverless trains. The first driverless train will be launched in 2014, with the AutoHaulTM automated train programme scheduled for completion a year later.|
AutoHaulTM is being pioneered as part of the automation component of Rio Tinto's Mine of the FutureTM initiative that also includes driverless trucks and autonomous drills. On its 1,500-kilometre rail network, Rio Tinto currently runs 41 trains from mines to ports, comprising 148 locomotives and 9,400 iron ore cars.
Rio Tinto chief executive Australia and Iron Ore Sam Walsh said "Rio Tinto is leading the way in large-scale use of automation, with plans to deploy 150 driverless trucks and our plans for AutoHaulTM. Expanding Pilbara iron ore production is a high-return and low-risk investment for Rio Tinto that will enhance shareholder value. Automation will help us meet our expansion targets in a safe, more efficient and cost-effective way."