The Mine of the Future Kyle Maxey
posted on September 12, 2013 |
In the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the future of mining is beginning to take shape as the Rio Tinto Iron Ore company’s autonomous trucks begin to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Named the Autonomous Hauling System, this new mining technology consists of a fleet of autonomous trucks that are capable of loading, hauling and dumping raw iron ore without the need for direct human interaction.
In fact, these massive mining machines and the software that controls them, are so reliable that they’re actually controlled by operators siting 930 miles away at Rio Tinto’s headquarters in Perth, Australia.
To control the trucks each vehicle is equipped with a wireless communication system that’s directly integrated into an extremely accurate GPS. Once a truck starts its engine,e it is assigned a specific path to follow and series of action to undertake once it’s reached its destination. If conditions on the ground change, operators in Perth can immediately contact a truck and give it new instructions at a moment’s notice.
What’s even more amazing is that these trucks aren’t the only inhabitants of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara mine. Humans, who still do surveying and inspection work, work side by side with these autonomous behemoths.
Since its debut in 2008, the Autonomous Hauling System has logged 1,000,000 km (621,371 miles) and has moved some 100 million metric tons of ore.
I have to admit, this automated mining technology is really awesome, but it leaves me crestfallen. If systems like this can be improved and more machines can be brought into the autonomous fold it likely means my chance of working on a lunar mining colony is slim-to-none.
Images and Video Courtesy of Rio Tinto Iron Ore