International mining group Rio Tinto and the University of Sydney have announced a five year continuance of their multimillion dollar research partnership aimed at increasing mining autonomy.
The Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation (RTCMA) based at the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies has been working with the global mining company on the development and deployment of technologies for fully autonomous, remotely operated mining processes since 2007.
The research partnership’s next phase will provide a step-change improvement in safety, predictability, precision and efficiency of typical surface mining operations through automation.
Dr Steve Scheding, RTCMA Director and principal research engineer at the centre said:
“The range of programs under way at RTCMA crosses areas such as sensing, machine learning, data fusion and systems engineering.”
“The Centre’s work so far has resulted in a number of major research advancements targeted at improving the safety and productivity of autonomous operated mining sites.”
“One of our projects has created autonomous mining drill rigs that can bore holes into the ore body efficiently and reliably. This autonomous capability also allows the operator of the rig to be located in a much safer area of the mine site - or indeed anywhere on the planet. This increases the safety of the operator, and also greatly improves drilling precision in operations.”
The centre will also continue its training program that is educating the next generation of mining automation engineers and technicians.
John McGagh, Head of Innovation at Rio Tinto said the company looked forward to its continuing relationship with the University’s research team.
“Our technology professionals have worked alongside top notch research minds to achieve our goals.
“With mining increasingly taking place in remote parts of the world, tomorrow’s mines are likely to rely on remote monitoring and control, with employees running the mines from cities thousands of kilometres away.
“With the input of the best academic minds we are already making this a reality. We remotely manage the automated operation of our iron ore mines in Pilbara region from our Perth based offices.
The mining giant also reached a significant milestone earlier this year with its autonomous haul trucks moving 200 million tonnes of earth in the Pilbara region.
“The autonomous haul trucks are a key component in Rio Tinto's strategy of employing next-generation technology to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve health, safety and environmental performance,” said Mr McGagh.