Canadian Mining Journal


IRON ORE: Rio Tinto to double autonomous drills

Rio Tinto is reaping the safety and productivity benefits of automated blast-hole drilling in the Pilbara region of Australia. (Image: Rio Tinto)

AUSTRALIA – London, England’s Rio Tinto is almost doubling its fleet of autonomous production drills at its iron ore mines in Western Australia. All drills are monitored by the company’s operations centre in Perth, 1,500 km away.

Four additional drills, retrofitted with autonomous drilling system technology were recently deployed at the Yandicoogina iron mine in Pilbara. Seven autonomous drills have been used at the West Angelas mine, beginning in 2008. A further nine will be deployed by the end of 2018, bringing the total to 20.

Rio says the autonomous drills significantly improve safety by reducing the number of employees exposed to potential hazards and fatigue, as well as limiting exposure to dust, noise and vibration. All the rigs deployed thus far have operated accident free.

Drill automation also increases productivity by allow each rig to operate more hours and at a higher drilling rate than they would under direct operator control.

Learn more about Rio Tinto’s automation programs at