Rio Tinto to install world's largest underground automated mining system

Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) has plans in motion to install the world's largest underground automated mining system at its Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia.

The diversified mining titan has scheduled the installation of the Sandvik AutoMine system for 2012 -2013, in the hope of raising safety levels and increasing efficiency through automated operation.

According to Sandvik the order is comprised of eleven electric loaders and two diesel loaders which will be operated from three separate stations in a surface control room.

Rio Tinto already makes use of a Sandvik AutoMine system on a 24-hour basis at its Northparkes copper and gold mine in central New South Wales. The successful operation of the system at Northparkes should enable Rio and Sandvik to improve the installation process for the Argyle mine.

Sandvik says the Argyle underground mining automation installation system will be the largest in the world of its kind to date, and that Argyle's production structure is purpose designed for automation while fully operational.

Rio Tinto's Argyle diamond mine is one of the biggest sources of diamonds in the world. The mine is 100% owned by Rio Tinto and has been in operation for almost three decades, producing close to 800 million carats in rough diamonds.