The Pilbara, Western AustraliA
In the Pilbara region of Western Australia, we own an integrated portfolio of iron ore assets: a world-class, integrated network of 16 mines, four independent port terminals, a 1,700 kilometre rail network and related infrastructure – all designed to respond rapidly to changes in demand. We are one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of iron ore.
Innovation at Pilbara
Our integrated iron ore network is supported by our Operations Centre in Perth, a state-of-the-art facility that enables all the autonomous trucks, trains and drills at our mines, ports and rail systems to be operated from a single location. The Centre incorporates visualisation and collaboration tools to provide real-time information across our demand chain and allows us to optimise our mining, maintenance and logistic activities across the Pilbara in a way never before possible.
In 2019, we launched the world’s first automated heavy-haul rail network – named AutoHaul™ – capable of moving about one million tonnes of iron ore a day. AutoHaul™ improves safety by reducing risk at level crossings and through automated responses to speed restrictions and alarms, eliminating the need to transport drivers to and from trains mid-journey, which in turn saves almost 1.5 million kilometres of road travel every year. It also improves cycle times by using information about network topography to calculate and deliver a safe, consistent driving strategy.
About one-third of our haul truck fleet across our Pilbara sites is also autonomous. These trucks, which use pre-defined GPS courses to automatically navigate haul roads and intersections, and which continuously track actual locations, speeds and directions of other vehicles, allow us to move more material, more efficiently and safely, increasing productivity.
We are a global industry leader in autonomous haulage and are the only organisation in the world to operate two different Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Autonomous Haulage Systems (AHS).
We also continue to expand our Autonomous Drilling System (ADS), now with a fleet of 26 production drills across seven sites including the recent deployment of an additional three production drills at Hope Downs 4. ADS allows us to monitor multiple drills from different manufacturers across multiple sites from a single remote drill console in Perth.
We are continually investing in our operations in the Pilbara, introducing next generation technologies that can deliver greater efficiency, lower production costs and improved health, safety and environmental performance.
In 2018, the Rio Tinto board approved $2.6 billion in funding for Koodaideri, set to be our most technologically advanced mine, as well as a high-quality, long-life, low-cost and expandable asset. For the very first time, we will leverage technology already in use across our business, such as autonomous trucks, trains and drills, and implement systems that connect all components of the mining value chain.
When fully operational, in its first phase Koodaideri will produce up to 43 million tonnes of iron ore a year, contributing to our flagship product, the Pilbara Blend™. It will also become a new production hub for our iron ore business, incorporating a processing plant and infrastructure including a 166-kilometre rail line connecting the mine to our existing network.
Koodaideri will also create jobs and business opportunities in Western Australia, including for Traditional Owners and Indigenous people. The construction phase will create over 2,000 jobs; when operational, we expect the mine to employ about 600 people.