Rio Tinto: Research shows potential of automation for the future of the mining industry

Download pdf here


World-first technology in the mining industry is contributing to better health and safety for miners, production efficiencies and improved energy consumption and environmental benefits, according to new research.

A BAEconomics report, commissioned by Rio Tinto to look into the benefits and costs of autonomous technology, concludes that investment in mining technology and innovation should sustain long-term competitiveness while also providing the broader economic benefits likely to flow from a strong mining industry.

The report, titled “Autonomous and remote operation technologies in the mining industry: benefits and costs” examines the advances in new technology, showing that while the costs and challenges of automation in the mining sector are substantial, they are potentially far outweighed by the benefits they can deliver.

The report also concludes that as automated systems allow workers to communicate with and control machinery remotely, this removes their exposure to hazardous mining environments, reduces or eliminates health and safety risks, and makes for a more attractive workplace. The appeal of these new roles, and the potential for them to be located in more desirable locations will broaden employment opportunities and attract more talent to the mining industry.

Rio Tinto head of innovation John McGagh said “The BAEconomics report highlights the increasingly complex challenges being faced by the mining industry. Our industry is facing maturing ore bodies, fewer tier-one deposits, increasingly complex geographies and labour shortages and the report details how innovation in autonomous technologies can play an important role in addressing these challenges.

“The revolutionary technologies being tested now cement Rio Tinto's leading position in the field of mining innovation. In Iron Ore, we’re introducing automated trucks, blast-hole drill rigs, sorting machines and trains, all of which are capable of being controlled by our Operations Centre in Perth, which already integrates our port, rail and mine logistics.

“Rio Tinto’s research partnerships also help to set us ahead of the pack. The Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation, established at the University of Sydney is one of five global research centres with links to Universities. These research centres bring together the experience and know-how of our own technology and mining professionals with some of the best academic minds to achieve changes that are transforming the way mining, processing and energy are approached.”

Rio Tinto’s Mine of the FutureTM programme has been running for the past four years, aimed at finding advanced ways to mine and extract minerals more efficiently while reducing environmental impacts and improving safety.

Download the report by BAEconomics:

See more on Rio Tinto’s Mine of the FutureTM programme here.

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.


Media Relations, EMEA / Americas
Illtud Harri
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 1152
Mobile: +44 (0) 7920 503 600

Tony Shaffer
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 1138
Mobile: +44 (0) 7920 041 003

Christina Mills
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 1154
Mobile: +44 (0) 7825 275 605

Media Relations, Australia / Asia
David Luff
Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3620
Mobile: +61 (0) 419 850 205

Karen Halbert
Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3627
Mobile: +61 (0) 412 119 389

Bruce Tobin
Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3612
Mobile: +61 (0) 419 103 454

Media Relations, Canada
Bryan Tucker
Office: +1 (0) 514 848 8151
Mobile: +1 (0) 514 825 8319

Investor Relations, London
Mark Shannon
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 1178
Mobile: +44 (0) 7917 576 597

David Ovington
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 2051
Mobile: +44 (0) 7920 010 978

Investor Relations, North America
Jason Combes
Office: +1 (0) 801 204 2919
Mobile: +1 (0) 801 558 2645

Investor Relations, Australia
Dave Skinner
Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3628
Mobile: +61 (0) 408 335 309

Christopher Maitland
Office +61 (0) 3 9283 3063
Mobile +61 (0) 459 800 131

Further information:

If you have been forwarded this email, you may wish to click here to signup for our media releases directly.

Follow us on Twitter