Rio Tinto is upping its investment in mining technology by entering into an AU$10.5 million partnership with Curtin University of Technology in Perth.
Getting the help of Curtin University is a logical step, according to a Rio Tinto spokesperson, with the University already close to its iron ore operations.
Academia also has a more open mind for new ideas, the spokesperson continued. "It's clearly a good idea to share the work with an academic institution. After all, we're miners... we are very much project based... [The university] looks across broad disciplines and brings in ideas from all across the world."
The five-year deal will see the University's Centre for Materials and Sensing in Mining help create Rio Tinto's goal of "the mine of the future".
Improved sensing can achieve a "step change" in surface mining, according to Rio Tinto, by providing better information on rock properties -- which can determine how mining should be conducted and how equipment is deployed.
Material technology looks at how materials can be best used in the excavation and transport of ore, as well as improving maintenance and raising energy efficiency.
Automation and remote controlling of mining processes provides substantial improvement in mining safety, predictability, precision and efficiency according to Rio Tinto's chief executive iron ore Sam Walsh.
The Curtin deal will complement Rio Tinto's ongoing AU$21 million dollar partnership with the University of Sydney to develop and implement a fully autonomous remotely operated mine, whereby mine operations in the Pilbara can be controlled from 1,300km away in Perth, use driverless trains carrying iron ore and remote control "intelligent drills".