Rio’s automated trains on hold, Northparkes contractors put off

The miner said the Northparkes copper-gold mine was the latest in a list of mines to suffer after the copper price fell 60% in the last six months. As a result, the E48 underground project has been suspended, with 26 Northparkes staff to lose their jobs and a further 320 contractors to have their contracts finalised. Rio also revealed yesterday it had postponed its $US371 million Automated Train Operations (ATO) program in Western Australia’s Pilbara.The program was designed to make Rio’s Pilbara operations more efficient as the company expanded its iron ore mining to 220 million tonnes and beyond, but given slowing iron ore demand the program has been delayed. The ATO had originally been scheduled for implementation in 2012.Rio iron ore chief executive Sam Walsh said the program could be restarted when “circumstances permit”.In the meantime, the miner will be looking at other new technologies in the Pilbara including automated truck haulage and automated drill and blast, along with its remote mine operation technology.

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