Rio Tinto is now thinking of moving its ore transportation to driverless trains. The mining giant has lined up an investment of $518 million for such trains. It does cast a shadow on the future of its current 500 plus train drivers in the Pilbara region.
The “Mine of the Future” initiative by Rio Tinto is now looking to develop these robotic futuristic trains within the next three years. The objective of the initiative is to automate all the mining operation systems so that they can be controlled from a remote center which could be many kms away. It is hoped that the automation process will help the mines become more efficient and less dependent on skilled labor.
The shortage of trained mining workers has played a large role in the setting up of the automated initiative by the multinational mining giant. As per current forecasts the mining industry in Western Australia is likely to face a shortage of nearly 30,000 workers within the next year and half.
However the plan to have 41 automated trains in Western Australia to haul iron ore to the port is going to put the mining company in path of a confrontation with the unions. As 500 drivers who currently drive the trains from Pilbara to the ports of Cape Lambert and Dampier will be facing unemployment as a consequence of the initiative.
Iron Ore head of Rio Tinto, Sam Walsh, has said that they could be consulting the drivers and seek to find new roles for them in the business. Rio Tinto has also decided to deploy 150 driverless trucks in the Pilbara region which will be controlled from a control center in Perth.