Robots rise at Rio: Driverless truck push “significant” to $5bn savings

Mining giant Rio Tinto is to roll out a huge expansion of driverless trucks as part of a $5bn (£3.8bn) productivity push.

Some 48 Komatsu and Caterpillar heavy-duty vehicles are to be retrofitted with “autonomous haulage system” (AHS) technology. The trucks service the company's large Australian mines in Pilbara and Marandoo.

The FTSE 100 firm said the changes would make a “significant contribution” towards a $5bn productivity programme to streamline operations.

The latest phase of switching will first start next year and completed by the end of 2019. When finished it will mean almost a third of truck's at the Rio's prized Australian mines will be autonomous.

The miner first announced it would start using autonomous trucks in 2015. Last year their use led to 1,000 saved hours and 15 per cent lower load and haul costs, Rio said.

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Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said: “We are excited to be starting a new chapter in our automation journey with a valued long-term partner in Caterpillar and we are proud to be extending our successful partnership with Komatsu on this world-first retrofitting initiative.

“Rapid advances in technology are continuing to revolutionise the way large-scale mining is undertaken across the globe. The expansion of our autonomous fleet via retrofitting helps to improve safety, unlocks significant productivity gains, and continues to cement Rio Tinto as an industry leader in automation and innovation.

“We are studying future additions to our autonomous fleet in the Pilbara, based on value, to help deliver our share of $5bn of additional free cash flow for the company by 2021.

“Rio Tinto is committed to working closely with our workforce as we transition to AHS including providing opportunities for new roles, redeployment, retraining and upskilling.”

Read more: Rio Tinto rolls out driverless trucks

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