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Rio Tinto to increase Gudai-Darri iron ore mine capacity


Rio Tinto is seeking to increase production capacity at its newest iron ore mine, Gudai-Darri, to 50 million tonnes a year at a cost of around $70 million (A$130 million) through incremental productivity gains.

The $3.1 billion Gudai-Darri mine, in the Pilbara, Western Australia, began production last year and reached its planned annual capacity of 43 million tonnes in less than 12 months from first ore.

The planned capacity increase will be achieved through upgrades within the plant including chutes and conveyor belts, as well as utilising an existing incremental crushing and screening facility already on site.

The larger operation will require additional mining fleet, including haul trucks and diggers, as well as a small expansion of the product stockyards. The capacity increase is subject to environmental, heritage and other relevant approvals.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director of Pilbara Mines, Matthew Holcz, said “What we have learnt during the rapid ramp-up of Gudai-Darri has given us the confidence to find better ways to increase capacity at our newest and most technologically advanced mine.

“Rather than taking a capital-intensive approach to replicate existing infrastructure, we have now identified a low-capital pathway to creep capacity to 50 million tonnes a year.”

The capital intensity of any increase in capacity of Gudai-Darri is expected to be around $10 per tonne.


Gudai-Darri hosts a suite of technological innovations, including:

Autonomous trucks and drills

  • Gudai-Darri has 26 CAT 793F autonomous haul trucks, three CAT MD6310 and two MD6250 autonomous drills. The trucks implement real-time ore tracking using sensors to provide live dig face progression, while data-informed modelling from the drills helps to build more accurate assessments of existing ground conditions and improve safety. In collaboration with Caterpillar, Rio Tinto is advancing the development of zero-emissions autonomous haul trucks. Once development is complete, it is anticipated the world’s first operational deployment of Caterpillar 793 zero-emissions autonomous haul trucks will be at Gudai-Darri.

The world’s first autonomous water carts

  • The new vehicles, developed in partnership with Caterpillar, are primarily used for dust suppression on site, enhancing productivity by enabling mine operations to digitally track water consumption and reduce waste. The vehicle’s intelligent on-board system detects dry and dusty conditions on site, triggering the application of water to roads to keep them in good condition.

Autonomous trains (AutoHaul™)

  • Fully operational in June 2019, AutoHaul™ was the world’s first fully autonomous long distance, heavy-haul rail network. The autonomous train is monitored remotely by operators from our Operations Centre in Perth more than 1,500 kilometres away.

Rio Tinto’s first rotable bucketwheel reclaimer

  • Traditionally reclaimer maintenance requires a prolonged shutdown while several components are removed. This patented world first enables the entire bucket wheel module to be changed out for maintenance, improving safety and efficiency.

Robotic ore sampling laboratory

  • The Gudai-Darri laboratory is fully automated and integrated with our mine. Production samples (both lump and fines) enter the lab via a conveyer from the sample station and are transferred to the automated production cell by a robot. This facility provides excellent visibility of the ore grade being stockpiled on site.

Paperless field mobility

  • We are using technology to provide our people with in-field access to real-time data - connecting our teams to each other, to our work and our assets. Through tablets, team members can access many of the applications they require out in the field thereby eliminating the need for paper-based systems and reducing unnecessary travel.

Digital asset

  • Our digital asset is the first within Rio Tinto and enables our team members to visually navigate the asset, plan their work using a (to scale) 3D model and view or download associated technical data and documents. The same digital asset data is used to provide a feature rich, interactive 3D environment for virtual reality training.

Solar farm

  • The solar farm consists of about 83,000 solar panels made up of photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Capacity is up to 34MW and is expected to supply about a third of the mine’s average electricity demand once fully commissioned.


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