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Mining giant Rio Tinto has announced it will back the development and commercialisation of breakthrough mining technologies.

As a partner of Founders Factory, a global venture studio and start-up investor, Rio will invest $14.4 million in global pre-seed and seed stage start-ups over the next three years.

The technologies backed will focus on safe mine operations, decarbonisation, exploration processing and automation, with each start-up receiving a cash investment and the chance to participate in a four-month accelerator program through Founders Factory.

“Technology has always been at the forefront of our industry and Western Australia can be the Silicon Valley of the global mining industry,” Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said.

“Our iron ore operations in the Pilbara are among the most technologically advanced in the world. This exciting new partnership gives us the opportunity to build on our innovative legacy to unlock new technologies and help our business find better ways to provide the materials the world needs.”

Western Australian Premier Roger Cook expressed his excitement for the partnership.

“Securing the internationally renowned Founders Factory for Perth is a major coup for our state,” he said.

“This is the first time the tech accelerator has operated in Australia, providing a springboard for innovative local businesses to reach an international audience and maximise their chances of success.

“This three-year partnership will further cement WA’s position as a global leader in research and the development, helping to diversify the economy and create the jobs of the future.”