Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third-largest mining company, opened an innovation center in India to help roll out new mining technologies including driverless trucks and drills to boost efficiency and productivity.
The center, a joint venture with iGATE Patni in Pune, in western Maharashtra state, takes advantage of the large number of skilled engineers in India, and will help with the implementation of Rio’s mining innovations across different regions and product groups, Karen Halbert, a spokeswoman for London-based Rio, said by phone.
Rio last month announced plans to spend $518 million on the first driverless long-distance trains to haul iron ore from its Western Australia mines to ports, with the first automated train scheduled to run in 2014. The group already operates five driverless iron ore haulage trucks in the Pilbara region.
“This partnership will enable us to move our innovations from concept stage to reality more efficiently through the work of a dedicated team of specialized engineers,” John McGagh, Rio’s head of innovation, said in an e-mailed statement. The center, which opened today, will help adapt automation systems already in place in Western Australia’s Pilbara “across our network of mines.”
Rio’s joint venture partner iGATE Patni is a joint brand of iGATE Corp. and Patni Computer Systems Ltd., according to the statement.
Mining companies are seeking to boost productivity as mineral grades fall and ore bodies are located in increasingly remote areas, while the industry faces a worker shortage as companies expand operations globally.