Rio Tinto to double auto drill rig fleet to boost safety

Rio Tinto will almost double its autonomous drilling fleet to further improve safety and productivity across its iron ore operations in Western Australia.

The autonomous drills help protect workers from being exposed to potential hazards and fatigue levels. It also reduces employees’ exposure to noise, dust, and vibration. All the drills are monitored remotely by operators in the company’s operation centre in Perth, and to date have operated injury-free.

According to Rio Tinto, productivity has improved with the automation of drilling because of the increased number of hours the machine operates as well as the numbers of metres the drill achieves per hour.

For additional drills, which have been retrofitted with Autonomous Drilling System (ADS) technology were recently deployed at the company’s Yandicoogina mine in the Pilbara, adding to the existing seven autonomous drills at the West Angelas mine. A further nine drills will be deployed by the end of 2018, bringing the total fleet to 20.

“The expansion of our autonomous drilling fleet delivers significant productivity gains and enables us to drill more safely, accurately, and consistently. We are already reaping the benefits,” said Rio Tinto managing director, Planning, Integration and Assets, Iron Ore, Kellie Parker.

“The deployment of additional rigs, operated from our Operations Centre in Perth, offers significant advantages as part of our integrated system, which optimizes our autonomous trains, trucks, and drills and provides increased operability and flexibility.

“As pioneers of automation and innovation, we continue exploring new technologies to ensure Rio Tinto remains a leader in the global mining industry.

“Throughout our automation journey we are committed to working closely with our employees providing opportunities for new roles, new skills, redeployment and retraining.”

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