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Rio Tinto partners with Caterpillar on autonomous machinery at advanced mine

Development of Rio Tinto’s most technologically advanced mine has progressed following an agreement with global equipment manufacturer Caterpillar to provide state-of-the-art heavy machinery for the Koodaideri iron ore operation in the Pilbara, Western Australia.

Caterpillar, with support of their local Western Australian dealer WesTrac, will supply a fleet of 20 autonomous 793F trucks as well as four autonomous blast drills. Beyond the autonomous fleet, Caterpillar will also provide loaders, dozers, graders, water carts and diggers for the operation which will be Rio Tinto’s first Pilbara mine to be primarily operated using Caterpillar machinery.

The two companies have also agreed to study the potential for increased levels of automation of heavy mining equipment at the mine in the future.

The partnership with Caterpillar at Koodaideri will enhance Rio Tinto’s industry-leading Mine of the Future program which connects all components of the mining value chain for the first time, as well as making increased use of automation and digitisation. Caterpillar’s machinery will be integrated with Rio Tinto’s Mine Automation System (MAS), which collects and enhances data created by the company’s mining operations, to improve productivity across Rio Tinto’s entire iron ore network.

Koodaideri, 100% owned by Rio Tinto, is located approximately 35 kilometers north-west of Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina mine site, and about 110 kilometers from the town of Newman. The $2.6-billion mine was approved in November last year with construction commencing earlier this year.

Koodaideri Phase 1 will help sustain Rio Tinto’s existing production capacity by replacing depletion elsewhere in the system. Production capacity of the mine will be 43 million tonnes annually and is expected to commence by the end of 2021. A pre-feasibility study into Koodaideri Phase 2, which could increase annual capacity to 70 million tonnes, is ongoing.

Koodaideri has significant innovations in scope including:

  • a digital replica of the processing plant, accessible in real time by workers in the field;

  • fully integrated mine automation and simulation systems;

  • advanced automation including an automated workshop; and

  • numerous data analytics capabilities and control loops to optimise production and reduce downtime.


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