Resources Technology Showcase 2021: Rio Tinto uses event to unveil new automated water truck

Stuart McKinnon and Luke McPhersonThe West Australian
VideoThe Rio Tinto exhibit at the 2021 Resources Technology Showcase.

Rio Tinto has used the Resources Technology Showcase 2021 to unveil a new advancement in automation at its Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in the Pilbara.

The company will deploy the world’s first driverless water trucks at the $3.5 billion mine. Rio says the new vehicles, primarily used for dust suppression, will enhance productivity by enabling mine operations to digitally track water consumption and reduce waste.

The three water trucks will join Gudai-Darri’s fleet of Caterpillar heavy mobile equipment, including autonomous haul trucks and production drills.

Rio Tinto will deploy the world’s first fully autonomous water trucks at its $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
Camera IconRio Tinto will deploy the world’s first fully autonomous water trucks at its $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Credit: Rio Tinto/Rio Tinto

The announcement came as Rio’s exhibition at RTS2021, which is hosted by Seven West Media, drew thousands of visitors eager to try out the virtual “pit-to-port” tour of a Pilbara mining operation.

Rio’s impressive stand was one of the two dozen displays at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. RTS2021 is a free event which is open to the public and finishes on Tuesday at 4.30pm.

Yesterday’s visitors saw remote operations in action, experienced augmented reality, and took virtual tours of the North West of the State.

Self-driving utes, video-game technology and 3D scanning were some of the highlights of Roy Hill’s activation.

BHP was showing off an exoskeleton that allowed people to lift heavy weights effortlessly.

Students were ushered into the exhibition halls through Woodside’s experience tunnel, which was lined with giant LED screen showing a robotic dog created by Boston Dynamics.

Academics from the University of WA set ice on fire and used acoustic waves to levitate and manipulate objects.

An enormous aquarium allowed Fugro to showcase its multi-purpose underwater electric vehicle.

A drone shot of the Westrac display at the Resources Technology Showcase.
Camera IconA drone shot of the Westrac display at the Resources Technology Showcase.

The Gold Industry Group’s activation encouraged visitors to play the “discover gold game” from the company’s Heart of Gold app.

A giant Department of Defence Hawkei military vehicle and three helicopter simulators reminded students of the transferability of skills in the resources sector.

The announcement about Rio’s driverless water trucks showed the experiences at PCEC were a reality on site. The vehicle’s intelligent on-board system detects dry and dusty conditions on site, triggering the application of water to roads to keep them in good condition.

The refilling process is also completely automated with the water trucks recognising when it is time to refill, prompting them to self-drive to the water stand, park and top-up before returning to the field.

They boast a 160,000-litre tank capacity, a 33 per cent increase on Rio’s biggest water truck which has a capacity of 120,000-litres.

Once deployed, the water trucks will be integrated into Rio’s existing Autonomous Haulage System which has been shown to significantly improve safety by reducing the risks associated with operators working around heavy machinery.

Rio’s iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said the company had worked closely with Caterpillar to safely and successfully deploy the world’s first fully autonomous water truck.

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

“The continued expansion of our autonomous fleet helps improves 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.”

Caterpillar Resource Industries Group President Denise Johnson described the water trucks as the next innovation in mining automation.

“This is another important step in our continual journey in autonomous solutions for our customers,” she said.

Gudai-Darri, which is expected to begin production early next year, will be one of the world’s most technologically advanced mines.

The Resources Technology Showcase is free, and is open on June 21 and 22 from 9am – 4.30pm at PCEC.

For more information visit rtsperth.com.au.

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