Royal visit for Rio Tinto and The University of Western Australia’s ‘needle in a haystack’ exploration technology

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World-leading mining exploration technology from Rio Tinto’s Mine of the FutureTM programme attracted a visit today from His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh as a prelude to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth.

At The University of Western Australian (UWA), His Royal Highness inspected the state-of-the-art VK1 airborne gravity gradiometer. VK1 is the most advanced mining exploration technology developed by Rio Tinto and aims to find ‘needle in a haystack’ orebodies.

Operating from an aeroplane, VK1 measures changes, or gradients, in the Earth’s gravity field that allow detection of otherwise invisible, buried orebodies.

Some 30 years in the making, VK1 is now in initial flight trials with Rio Tinto. It is expected to undergo further modifications before a complex testing programme starts next year.

The VK1 project is a joint endeavour between Rio Tinto’s Exploration and Technology & Innovation teams and UWA. The three groups are pooling their knowledge of orebody geology and advanced physics, as well as their engineering expertise, to make the vision of VK1 concept originator and technical director Dr Frank van Kann a reality.

Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese said “It is an honour for all of us involved that His
Royal Highness has visited the VK1 project at UWA.

“As orebodies become harder to find, we hope that pioneering new technologies like VK1 will help us uncover the next generation of mineral resources. I would like to congratulate Frank and his team for bringing this technology to the point where we will soon be able to test its commercial application.”

Dr van Kann said “The development and production of VK1 has been a long, fascinating and challenging project. The collaboration between UWA and Rio Tinto has made significant progress and I am looking forward to the next steps in the development of the device. It is exciting to see how far my original concept has been progressed.”


About Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and New York Stock Exchange listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, thermal and metallurgical coal, uranium, gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide and salt) and iron ore. Activities span the world and are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.


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