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Celebrating a decade of smart mining solutions

5 December 2017
The Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation turns 10

Leading global mining group Rio Tinto and the University of Sydney have celebrated the 10th anniversary of their multimillion dollar research partnership aimed at increasing innovation in mining.

(L-R) Professor Archie Johnston, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, Rob Atkinson, Rio Tinto’s head of Productivity & Technical Support, and Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Program Lead, Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation.

(L-R) Professor Archie Johnston, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, Rob Atkinson, Rio Tinto’s head of Productivity & Technical Support, and Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Program Lead, Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation.

The Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation (RTCMA) based in the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies has been working with Rio Tinto since 2007 on the development and deployment of innovative mining processes to improve safety and productivity performance.

Leaders from Rio Tinto and the University of Sydney gathered at the RTCMA at the University’s Camperdown campus yesterday to celebrate the milestone and witness the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.

Professor Archie Johnston and Rob Atkinson unveil the commemorative plaque.

Professor Archie Johnston and Rob Atkinson unveil the commemorative plaque.  

Since its launch, a world-class research and technical team of more than 30 talented researchers and engineers from around the world have joined the RTCMA. More than 166 research publications and 22 patent families have been published on the research and technology advances made within RTCMA.

Key projects have included creating autonomous mining drill rigs that can bore holes into ore bodies efficiently and reliably, and developing new technologies like the Mine Automation System (MAS) and its accompanying visualisation software RTVis™, which provide a 3D representation of mine activities in real-time.

Additionally, the RTCMA has provided undergraduate and postgraduate students with vital exposure to commercially relevant real-world problems and has offered more than 10 scholarships for outstanding PhD students. 

“We are extremely proud that this partnership has enriched our research endeavours and created an environment genuinely geared towards invention and innovation,” said University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence.

“We have worked collaboratively to find solutions to important technical challenges and to prepare young engineers for the jobs of the future – and we look forward to continuing this important work,” said Professor Salah Sukkarieh, RTCMA Program Lead and Associate Dean (Industry and Innovation) of the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.

“The Mine Automation System we have developed through this partnership is in place at 98% of our sites. It allows us to extract the next level of value, not only from our automation capabilities but from the critical data insights it provides. There is huge potential for us to amplify the benefits from this system across our global operations,” said Rob Atkinson, Rio Tinto’s head of Productivity and Technical Support.

The next phase of the research partnership will continue the focus on providing improvements in safety, predictability and efficiency of mining operations through automation.

The RTMCA will also continue educating and training the next generation of mining automation engineers and technicians.

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

Media and PR Adviser (International)