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Remote Ship Loading Trial Starts In Pilbara

Image credit - Chard Hargrave, CSIRO
by Staff Writers
Victoria, Australia (SPX) Jul 22, 2010
A teleoperated shiploader designed to remotely control the loading iron ore is being trialled by Rio Tinto at a port in the Pilbara.

Development of the shiploader is part of Rio Tinto's vision for a Mine of the Future that will help deliver safer and more efficient mining.

CSIRO's Minerals Down Under Flagship worked closely with Rio Tinto to develop the teleoperation control systems used in the shiploader. Rio Tinto chose CSIRO as a research partner because it has significant expertise in a number of technologies that had to come together to deliver a result. These technologies include image processing and projection, electronic communications, software engineering, sensor technologies and human factors engineering, along with a deep understanding of the mining process.

CSIRO brought together an integrated project team from its labs in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. Where there were gaps in expertise, CSIRO collaborated with other researchers, including Paul Bourke from the University of Western Australia.

Minerals Down Under Director, Peter Lilly, says that the trial was an excellent example of the Flagship's collaboration with industry.

"We know the mining industry, we're very happy to work closely with them, we're flexible and we collaborate to provide the best possible result," Dr Lilly said.

"This new technology will not only improve efficiency, but will also remove the operator from a potentially hazardous position in a cabin on the shiploader boom."

The remote operator will sit at a console in front of a 180 degrees dome-shaped screen which simulates the view from the boom of the shiploader. Novel applications of sensor technology provide the operator with perceptions and information beyond what can be obtained by a manual operator on the shiploader.

Rio Tinto head of innovation, John McGagh, said the company's investment in research and development in Australia had been relentless over the past decade.

"Some of the technology we are using or adapting for the Pilbara has been trialled elsewhere, but never before has there been a systematic integration of such a scale of many innovations as we are now creating in the Pilbara," Mr McGagh said.

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