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Rio Tinto marks first delivery of iron ore by autonomous train; world’s largest robot

Rio Tinto achieved a milestone with the first delivery of iron ore by an autonomous train in the Pilbara, Western Australia. The autonomous train, comprising three locomotives and carrying around 28,000 tonnes of iron ore, travelled more than 280 km from Rio Tinto’s mining operations in Tom Price to the port of Cape Lambert on 10 July.


It was monitored remotely by operators from Rio Tinto’s Operations Centre in Perth more than 1,500 km away.

The inaugural journey for Rio Tinto’s AutoHaul0 program and follows regulatory approval in May. AutoHaul is on schedule to complete by the end of the year, unlocking significant safety and productivity gains for the business, as well as optimizing the company’s iron ore system by providing more flexibility and reducing bottlenecks.

The $940-million AutoHaul program is focused on automating trains transporting iron ore to Rio Tinto’s port facilities in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Once commissioned, the network will be the world’s first heavy haul, long distance autonomous rail operation.

Rio Tinto operates about 200 locomotives on more than 1,700 km of track in the Pilbara, transporting ore from 16 mines to four port terminals.

The average return distance of these trains is about 800 km with the average journey cycle, including loading and dumping, taking about 40 hours.

Locomotives carrying AutoHaul software are fitted with on-board cameras allowing for constant monitoring from the Operations Center. All public rail crossings on the network are fitted with CCTV cameras and have been upgraded to the highest safety standards.



Autonomous trains have been used to move many million tons of iron ore from Labrador to Seven Islands QC in the last 20+ years.

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