Rio Tinto continues research partnership with University of Sydney to increase mining autonomy

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Image credit: www.riotinto.com. Photographer: Christian Sprogoe PhotographyDate: 27 July 2009

Rio Tinto and the University of Sydney announced that they will continue their multimillion dollar research partnership which is aimed at increasing mining autonomy through The Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation (RTCMA).

Image credit: www.riotinto.com. Photographer: Christian Sprogoe PhotographyDate: 27 July 2009
Image credit: www.riotinto.com. Photographer: Christian Sprogoe PhotographyDate: 27 July 2009

The Centre is part of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies at the University of Sydney and has been working with Rio on the development and deployment of technologies for fully autonomous, remotely operated mining processes since 2007.

“The range of programs under way at RTCMA crosses areas such as sensing, machine learning, data fusion and systems engineering. The Centre’s work so far has resulted in a number of major research advancements targeted at improving the safety and productivity of autonomous operated mining sites,” said Dr Steve Scheding, RTCMA Director and principal research engineer at the Centre.

“One of our projects has created autonomous mining drill rigs that can bore holes into the ore body efficiently and reliably. This autonomous capability also allows the operator of the rig to be located in a much safer area of the mine site – or indeed anywhere on the planet. This increases the safety of the operator, and also greatly improves drilling precision in operations.”

The five-year continuation also involves a continuation of the training program aimed at educating the next generation of mining automation engineers and technicians.

“Our technology professionals have worked alongside top notch research minds to achieve our goals. With mining increasingly taking place in remote parts of the world, tomorrow’s mines are likely to rely on remote monitoring and control, with employees running the mines from cities thousands of kilometres away. With the input of the best academic minds we are already making this a reality.  We remotely manage the automated operation of our iron ore mines in Pilbara region from our Perth based offices,” said John McGagh, Head of Innovation at Rio Tinto.

“The autonomous haul trucks are a key component in Rio Tinto’s strategy of employing next-generation technology to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve health, safety and environmental performance.”