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Rio Tinto expects AI-powered trains to cut iron ore transportation time by 20%

Rio Tinto's autonomous Autohaul rail program could reduce the time for carrying iron ore from the miner's Western Australian mines to ports by about 20%, according to a senior company executive.

Steve McIntosh, Rio's growth and innovation head, told a May 14 conference in Sydney that the Autohaul project was expected to be "fully operational with full regulator sign-off" before the end of the year.

The artificial intelligence-powered trains will be able to travel faster than human-operated trains.

McIntosh noted that about 65% of the company's iron ore trains are already working in an "attended autonomous" mode, where a driver is present during the journey.

Rio Tinto recently said it plans to double its fleet of remote-controlled production drill rigs in the Pilbara in Western Australia and plans to increase the number of autonomous trucks at its iron ore operations to 30% of its total fleet of about 400 haul trucks.