Driverless trains a ‘threat’ to Pilbara
Rio Tinto has signalled development of its driverless train system is back on track, moving responsibility for completing the AutoHaul project out of its technology division to iron ore boss Chris Salisbury.
Launched in 2012 with a $US518 million budget, AutoHaul was due to be operational by 2015.
The shift to driverless trains was to deliver an extra 10 million to 20 million tonnes of exports for the iron ore major by next year by reducing downtime associated with shift changes.
But in April, Rio was forced to cut its 2017 export guidance and admit it was struggling to integrate the complex software systems into a package that would allow it to move to a completely autonomous system.
Rio has since gone quiet on AutoHaul, but a new iron ore management structure circulated by Mr Salisbury last week shows responsibility for completing the project has been moved from Rio’s growth and innovation division to iron ore, indicating it is entering the final stages of rolling out the system.
Mr Salisbury’s circular says ports, rail and core services boss Ivan Vella, who is now titled head of supply chain and services, will take over responsibility for the new trains from January.
WA Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls said automation would squeeze out Pilbara jobs.
“Lots of jobs are going to be exchanged for a robot into the future of Western Australia,” he said.
“Those people like the Liberal and Labor (parties), who are defending the 1964 State Agreement, are now about to wake up and see West Australian jobs ... transferred from people to robots.
“Companies that can sack jobs when profitability goes up, and companies which are looking to automate more and more of their workforce.”
Mr Grylls said automation and off-shoring of management and human resources jobs showed Rio Tinto, as a group, did not have residential jobs in mind.