Rio Tinto halts driverless train project

Mining giant Rio Tinto has released a statement saying it intended to "postpone" its $371 million automated train project in WA in response to an economic slowdown.

Mining giant Rio Tinto has released a statement saying it intended to "postpone" its $371 million automated train project in WA in response to an economic slowdown.

An automated train on its way to Dampier Port (Credit: Rio Tinto)

The project, which was announced in June 2008, was intended to help the company transport iron ore across 1,300km worth of track in WA's Pilbara.

In June last year, the company said it needed to transport a projected 320 million tonnes of iron ore by 2012, requiring the implementation of what is understood to be the first automated trains in Australia.

However, in a statement yesterday, the company said that the "easing of market growth caused by the economic slowdown has reduced the urgency of this project".

Rio Tinto did not confirm when the project would resume, but Gervase Greene, spokesperson for the company said "it really depends on the pick-up in market demand, we can't put a timer on that".

Greene said that of the $371 million originally intended for the project, only a "lesser proportion" had been spent: "You have to bear in mind that the driverless train project was not due until 2012."

Rio Tinto confirmed that the stop in the project would result in some staff cuts. "Inevitably there will be some [staff cuts], those conversations are still taking place," Greene said. "We have managed to keep it to a relative handful of Rio Tinto staff." Rio Tinto could not confirm if job losses would be IT staff.

Despite the halt in the project, Greene said that enough progress had been made that the project could easily be resumed if the demand for iron ore picked up.

To see a photo gallery of the now postponed project, click here.

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