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Autonomous trucks spot mine water need

Autonomous water trucks have been deployed at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia. The Caterpillar vehicles are able to reduce the amount of water applied at the mine by more effectively detecting areas in need of watering for operations.

While Rio Tinto has already deployed autonomous haul trucks and drill rigs at the site, the mining company is taking automation to the next level by pioneering three innovative water dispatchers.

The vehicles can automatically detect dry and dusty conditions to be watered, but refilling the 160,000-litre tank is also automated.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Simon Trott told Australian Mining that the use of the automated vehicles is the result of long-standing collaboration with the manufacturer, Caterpillar.

“We have worked closely with Caterpillar to safely and successfully deploy the world’s first fully autonomous water truck,” Trott said.

“Water spraying is a vital part of mining operations and this new technology will improve productivity and reduce water usage across our operations.”

Trott said the implementation of autonomous technology at Gudai-Darri is always evolving, as is the technology, allowing the company to use the most innovative and safest approaches to operations.

“The continued expansion of our autonomous fleet helps improve safety and continues Rio Tinto’s efforts to adopt world-leading technology to enhance our operations and realise our vision of making Gudai-Darri one of the world’s most technologically advanced mines,” Trott said.

Caterpillar Resource Industries Group President Denise Johnson said Rio Tinto is one of Catepillar’s most innovative partners.

“Rio continues to pioneer technology advancements and the water truck, working in conjunction with the autonomous hauling trucks and drills, will further accelerate Rio Tinto’s site performance,” Johnson said.

“This is another important step in our continual journey in autonomous solutions for our customers. We are pleased to work with Rio Tinto to introduce the next innovation in mining automation.”

Operations at Gudai-Darri have continued on track thanks to the autonomous technology, with peak production expected by early 2022.