Technology already in use across our business
We harness new and emerging technologies to make our operations safer and more efficient, and to leave a lighter environmental footprint. And we do this all the way through the mining life cycle as we explore, design, build, operate and close our operations.
Autonomous trucks, trains and drills
About 80% of our haul truck fleet across our Pilbara iron ore operations is autonomous. These trucks, which use pre-defined GPS courses to automatically navigate haul roads and intersections, and which continuously track actual locations, speeds and directions of other vehicles, allow us to move more material, more efficiently and safely, increasing productivity.
We also continue to expand our Autonomous Drilling System (ADS) and now have a fleet of 32 production drills across 7 sites.
Our operations centres in Perth and Brisbane in Australia, and the Saguenay region in Canada enable mines, processing facilities, ports and rail systems in these regions to be operated from a single location. The teams work in rooms filled with screens that show the entire operation in action – in real-time. Using tools like predictive maths, clever computer code and powerful software, our operations centres help us identify opportunities for improvements and efficiencies – from finding the best way to get ore from the ground to improving the way we make products.
Drones & remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)
We use drones and ROVs for real-time 3D mapping and equipment inspections, as well as checking slopes, crests and walls for safety risks like cracks and signs of rock movement. One of the biggest benefits of our drones is safety. There are some jobs where it is better for drones to do it rather than people – for example high wall mapping. By using drones, we are removing people from harm’s way. We are also using drones fitted with thermal diagnostic capability to identify equipment problems from the air. We can identify high friction rates on equipment in real time and notify the maintenance teams so the issues can be addressed.
Centres of Excellence
Our Centres of Excellence bring together our foremost technical experts to work with our operations around the world. They focus on analytics, automation, asset management, orebody knowledge, underground mining, surface mining and processing. These smart mining teams help us make the right technical judgements and decisions to help us manage our major hazard risks and assure the safety of our assets and operational excellence.
Mine Automation System
Our Mine Automation System (MAS) operates like a network server application, pulling together data at 98% of our sites, and mining it for information. MAS provides this information in a common format, using sophisticated algorithms. It can be displayed visually using RTVis™ – Rio Tinto Visualisation – or through more conventional operational type dashboards with graphs, charts and tables.
We then use artificial intelligence to make the best use of our systems. We can automatically generate orebody models, organise equipment dispatch, and predict and control blasts. We have even optimised the speed and reduced queuing of our autonomous trucks – these small improvements have produced significant gains in productivity.
We built RTVis™ – Rio Tinto Visualisation – with a 3D gaming engine to help us see inside our operations. We can fly over a site and dive down to the detailed information we need. We can hover over an excavator, follow a haul truck, or examine an orebody.
The software brings together geology, geotechnical, drill and blast, production and planning, and visualises surface and sub-surface features. There are also various analytics tools to help us make sense of our data and information for better decision-making.
RTVis has delivered many benefits to our operations, including more accurate drilling and blasting, reduced explosive use, and better waste classification, which means that our trucks carry less waste material and more ore – this boosts productivity and lowers costs.