Researchers looking to make remote controlled mines

MINES could be run from city offices hundreds of kilometres away if Rio Tinto research is successful.

The miner and the University of Sydney have announced they will continue research into increasing mine automation for another five years.

The Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation is working to develop fully autonomous, remotely controlled mining processes which could eventually lead to central Queensland mines being run from city offices.

RTCMA director Steve Scheding said the research would look at the safety, precision and efficiency benefits of automation.

"The range of programs under way at RTCMA crosses areas such as sensing, machine learning, data fusion and systems engineering," he said.

"The centre's work so far has resulted in a number of major research advancements targeted at improving the safety and productivity of autonomous operated mining sites.

"One of our projects has created autonomous mining drill rigs that can bore holes into the ore body efficiently and reliably. This autonomous capability also allows the operator of the rig to be located in a much safer area of the mine site - or indeed anywhere on the planet. This increases the safety of the operator, and also greatly improves drilling precision in operations."

Rio Tinto innovation head John McGagh said the automation research could lead to remotely controlled mines being run from cities.

"With mining increasingly taking place in remote parts of the world, tomorrow's mines are likely to rely on remote monitoring and control, with employees running the mines from cities thousands of kilometres away," he said.

Mr McGagh said Rio Tinto had successfully automated some processes in its Western Australian mines.

"With the input of the best academic minds we are already making this a reality. We remotely manage the automated operation of our iron ore mines in Pilbara region from our Perth based offices."


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