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Rio Tinto, Gudai-Darri

The Gudai-Darri site in Western Australia. Image: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has pioneered Caterpillar’s autonomous water trucks at the Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia.

While Rio has already deployed autonomous haul trucks and drill rigs at Gudai-Darri, productivity will be further enhanced by three water trucks at the highly-automated operation.

Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said the deployment had been a highly collaborative process with Caterpillar, a partner of over 50 years.

“We have worked closely with Caterpillar to safely and successfully deploy the world’s first fully autonomous water truck,” Trott said.

“Water spraying is a vital part of mining operations and this new technology will improve productivity and reduce water usage across our operations.”

The vehicles can automatically detect dry and dusty conditions to be watered, while refilling the 160,000-litre tank is also an automated process.

Trott said the implementation of autonomous technology at Gudai-Darri is always evolving, as is the technology.

“The continued expansion of our autonomous fleet helps improve safety and continues Rio Tinto’s efforts to adopt world-leading technology to enhance our operations and realise our vision of making Gudai-Darri one of the world’s most technologically advanced mines,” Trott said.

Caterpillar resource industries group president Denise Johnson said Rio was one of Cat’s most innovative partners.

“Rio continues to pioneer technology advancements and the water truck, working in conjunction with the autonomous hauling trucks and drills, will further accelerate Rio Tinto’s site performance,” Johnson said.

“This is another important step in our continual journey in autonomous solutions for our customers.

“We are pleased to work with Rio Tinto to introduce the next innovation in mining automation.”

Ramp-up at Gudai-Darri has continued on track thanks to the autonomous technology, with peak production expected by early 2022.

The mine should produce 43 millions tonnes per year.