Rio Tinto extends rail network for new Pilbara mine

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Hitachi Rail's fully digitally automated AutoHaul network connects Rio Tinto's new Australian iron ore mine to port, with the new mining site also featuring Rio's first dedicated photovoltaic solar farm.

Hitachi Rail has connected Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region to the AutoHaul network.The network will be a fully automated heavy-haul, long-distance rail system, with Hitachi as the technical and delivery lead.

The 1,700 km (1,056 miles) AutoHaul network has now been expanded by a further 166km (103 miles) via rail spur.

The greenfield mine development enables 220 trains - monitored remotely from an operations centre in Perth - to travel across more than 1,866 km (1,160 miles) of track from mine to port, all without the need for onboard drivers.

Hitachi Rail’s systems and software development for the expansion has included: onboard and control centre technology, trackside equipment, radio base stations, and automatic train operation (ATO) interface software for locomotive control, level crossing safety, and location tracking.

All systems and software are now operational following the first production test run and subsequent successful system commissioning.

“The Gudai-Darri AutoHaul network expansion project is a natural extension of Hitachi Rail’s long-term collaboration to deliver innovative rail transport solutions for Rio Tinto,” said Hitachi Rail Australia senior director Roslyn Stuart, adding,” The project has seen Hitachi Rail and the Rio Tinto AutoHaul team deliver another ‘first’, with back-to-back loading (high performing automated train loading) to be introduced on the Gudai-Darri mine rail loop.”

Rio Tinto operates the world’s largest integrated portfolio of iron ore assets, with the Gudai-Darri mine will also deploy autonomous haul trucks, fully autonomous water trucks and autonomous training solutions, and will be partially powered by a 34MW photovoltaic solar farm solar plant.The solar farm will power roughly one-third of the electricity needs for the Gudai-Darri mine, supported by a 45MW, 12MWh ‘big battery’ currently under construction at Rio’s Tom Price network.

Hitachi Rail has also begun a major contract to install innovative technology to automate elements of Queensland’s New Generation Rail (NGR) fleet. The AU$107m (US$74m) contract will see Hitachi Rail install Automatic Train Operation across European Train Control System Level 2 technology on all NGR trains.