Rio Tinto and Komatsu Ltd. celebrated a new milestone when the new driverless trucks commenced hauling high grade iron ore at the Yandicoogina mine in Western Australia. The Junction South East (JSE) pit now has a fleet of 10 Komatsu driverless haul trucks that will move high grade ore for the first time, marking a major step toward full operational deployment of the project. The trucks will be used for all haulage requirements in the pit, moving high grade, low grade and waste material from multiple loading units.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Sam Walsh and Komatsu President and CEO Kunio Noji, were at Yandicoogina for the opening of the JSE autonomous pit. “The deployment of these trucks at Yandocoogina is the next step in our program to introduce over 150 driverless trucks to our Pilbara operations, making us the world’s largest owner and operator of these vehicles,” Walsh said. “Autonomous haulage is an important component in our Mine of the Future program. These new trucks will work with our pioneering Operations Center that integrates and manages the logistics of 14 mines, three ports and two railways. They will be a critical part of our drive to outstanding safety and production efficiency as we grow our business toward 353 million metric tons a year.”

“Komatsu and Rio Tinto are global partners and have developed a strong alliance throughout the years,” Noji said. “We are confident that our leading-edge Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology will accelerate Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future objectives through improving safety and mine operations.”

The deployment of the driverless truck fleet forms a key part of the Mine of the Future program. Launched in 2008, it creates next generation technologies for mining operations resulting in greater efficiency, lower production costs, and improved health, safety and environmental performance. Rio Tinto has been testing the Komatsu AHS, the world’s first commercial autonomous mining haulage system, in the Pilbara since December 2008. During the trials the AHS technology demonstrated benefits in health, safety and productivity.