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

Rio Tinto will be the first to deploy Caterpillar’s 793 zero-emission autonomous haul trucks, once development is complete at the Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the two companies have agreed to a prototype pilot program for the 793 fleet, with testing and pre-production trials to come.

The 220-tonne trucks will form another piece of Rio Tinto’s most technically advanced iron ore mine which will ramp up to first production over the coming few years.

Rio Tinto chief commercial officer Alf Barrios said agreements such as this are key to the company’s targets at Gudai-Darri.

“Our ambition to reach net zero emissions across our operations is a priority. Reaching this ambition will require new and innovative solutions, and partnerships with supplier partners like Caterpillar,” Barrios said.

“This collaboration represents a small but important step on that journey.”

The announcement came after the companies agreed to pioneer Caterpillar’s autonomous water trucks at the same mine, in a further step to lower emissions and increase productivity.

Caterpillar Group president Denise Johnson said Rio Tinto was a leader in commissioning these future-focussed technologies.

“By leveraging these technologies across their sites, Rio Tinto can more safely increase productivity, efficiency and be more sustainable,” Johnson said.

“We are pleased to be part of Rio Tinto’s sustainability journey and look forward to building on our long-standing collaboration.”

Rio has continued to assess the scope of Gudai-Darri at peak production, with a $44 million pre-feasibility study currently underway.

To cater for the raft of autonomous solutions to be implemented at the iron ore mine, Rio Tinto announced in June it would provide autonomous training solutions from Immersive Technologies.

Once trained, the mine’s workforce will be capable of operating the autonomous machinery with Caterpillar’s MineStar Command system.