Safety spruiked in push for robot workers
The University of Sydney and Rio Tinto are extending their autonomous mining research partnership after several successful years.
The two aim to continue ushering-in the age of automated mines for five more years, expanding on operations at the Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation (RTCMA).
They have been working on a range of developments and deployments of fully-autonomous and remotely-operated mining technologies.
Now, they say they have recommitted in order to reach a new goal - improvements in safety, predictability, precision, and efficiency.
“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,” RTCMA director Steve Scheding told reporters this week.
“The range of programs under way at RTCMA crosses areas such as sensing, machine learning, data fusion and systems engineering.
“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.”
The deal means the RTCMA can continue training automation engineers and technicians.
Rio Tinto’s head of innovation John McGagh has told Mining Australia that the company looks forward to continuing working with the academics.
“Our technology professionals have worked alongside top notch research minds to achieve our goals,” McGagh said.
“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.
“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,” he said.
“The autonomous haul trucks are a key component in Rio Tinto's strategy of employing next-generation technology to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve health, safety and environmental performance.”
But Riot Tinto is not exclusively linked to the Sydney University, and has similar setups chasing the goal of a fully robotic workforce at other research sites.
Rio has created a professorial chair in geotechnical engineering position at the University of NSW, worked with University of Nottingham to build a ‘Centre for Emergent Technologies’, and maintains a partnership with UWA to get more graduates to develop the mining industry