update In partnership with a team of CSIRO scientists, Rio Tinto has deployed a remote ship loader as part of its "Mine of the Future" project.
Mining giant Rio Tinto has deployed a remote shiploade at its Pilbara facility.(Credit: Rio Tinto)
The remote loader removes the manual operator from the boom's cockpit. The remote operator is able to manoeuvre the loader through a 180-degree, dome-shaped screen, which simulates the view from the boom.
In the remote cockpit, the operator is given detailed technical information from a series of sensors on the loader itself, providing more information than a manual operator would have access to.
The Mine of the Future project has also seen the deployment of driverless trucks and remote drilling rigs in the Pilbara region.
The mining giant had also planned to implement a $37 million driverless train as part of the project. Due to the economic downturn, the project was later placed on hold.
Rio Tinto has been gradually deploying automated systems over the last four years. The equipment is controlled by Rio's remote mining operations centre at a distance of up to 1500km away from the Pilbara site.
Update at 9:59am, 14 July 2010: we originally reported that the remote shiploader was operated through Rio Tinto's remote operations centre at a distance of over 1000km away. ZDNet Australia has since been informed that the remote shiploader is controlled on-site, closer to the loader.