PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Diversified miner Rio Tinto has officially cut the ribbon at the Gudai-Darri mine, in the Pilbara, marking its most technologically advanced mine to date.
“Gudai-Darri represents a step-change in the deployment of automation and technology within our iron-ore business and a fantastic demonstration of the talent, ingenuity and capability that exists in Western Australia, a region which is now known globally for its technical excellence and innovation. Gudai-Darri's combination of data and analytics, machine learning and automation, will make this mine safer and more productive,” said Rio iron-ore CEO Simon Trott.
“Gudai-Darri is our first greenfield mine in the Pilbara in more than a decade and a multibillion-dollar investment in the state of Western Australia that will operate for decades to come.”
The project features some of the most advanced cutting-edge technology, including a robotic ore sampling laboratory which provides visibility of the ore grades out of the mine within minutes.
Autonomous trucks, trains and drills, which are standard across many of Rio Tinto's Pilbara mines are also present at the site, along with a digital replica of the processing plant which allows teams to quickly test different situations digitally before implementing.
Additionally, Rio is building a 34 MW solar farm consisting of 83 000 solar panels that will power one-third of Gudai-Darri's electricity needs, with completion expected in August 2022.
The iron-ore miner also has plans to develop a one gigawatt solar and wind power operation in the Pilbara, which could be seven times bigger than Western Australia's largest solar farm.
Gudai-Darri marked first ore production earlier this month. At full production, the mine will have yearly capacity of 43-million tonnes, underpinning production of the Pilbara Blend, Rio’s flagship iron-ore product.
Capital costs at the mine had ballooned from $2.6-billion to $3.1-billion owing to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, including labour access and supply chain quality issues.
Western Australia Minister for Mines, Petroleum and Energy Bill Johnston welcomed the opening of the mine, saying he was impressed by Rio’s innovation and sustainability.
“I'm impressed by Rio Tinto's innovation and sustainability - this is a prototype of the mine of the future. Once the new solar farm is complete, it will be able to power one-third of Gudai-Darri's operational needs with renewable energy,” said Johnston.
“This will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90 000 t/y, which is the same amount produced by 6 000 Australian homes each year.”