Rio Tinto is buying more robo-drills to “create a safer working environment and boost productivity”.

Rio has announced plans to double its fleet of autonomous drills in WA.

The company currently runs seven of the devices at the West Angelas mine in the Pilbara, Western Australia and recently retrofitted four drills with autonomous drill system (ADS) technology at the Yandicoogina mine.

Rio says it will introduce nine more drills by the end of the year, bringing its total fleet to 20.

Rio Tinto’s Kellie Parker says the expansion will boost productivity, accuracy, consistency and safety.

“The deployment of additional rigs, operated from our operations centre in Perth, offers significant advantages as part of our integrated system, which optimises our autonomous trains, trucks and drills and provides increased operability and flexibility,” Ms Parker said.

“As pioneers of automation and innovation, we continue exploring new technologies to ensure Rio Tinto remains a leader in the global mining industry.”

Rio is a major adopter of automated technology, particularly in trucks and other transport machinery.

It is expected to launch a fully-autonomous train system by the end of this year.