The Future Goes Underground with Robotic Miners

October 15th, 2012 | by Michael Keller

Global metals and mining concern Rio Tinto this month ordered 13 high-tech loaders for its Western Australia Argyle diamond mine, one of the largest producers of the gem in the world.

The purchase, expected to be delivered by 2013, would likely go without mention if it were not for the fact that the mammoth 36-foot-long, 42-ton loaders will work 24 hours a day without a human operator sitting in the cab. They will be robots operating on their own, with humans supervising from a remote control room and getting involved only when the units run into trouble.

When the vehicles and their control systems get to work, they will comprise the world’s largest automated underground mining installation to date, says Sandvik, the company supplying the system.
This doesn’t represent the first deployment of robotic mining operations, but it is another sign of what is to come in the mining industry.

Silicon Operators

In fact, Rio Tinto is working across its business “to generate future value by finding advanced ways to extract minerals deep within the Earth while reducing environmental impacts and further improving safety,” says Kimberley Sceresini, a company spokesperson. The program is called “Mine of the Future.”

Sceresini tells Txchnologist that robotic vehicles are just one pillar of the project and that concrete plans are underway to inject robots throughout the hazardous and difficult world of mining.

Read more: txchnologist — the future goes underground with robotic miners.

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