Rio Tinto autonomous iron ore train derailed

One of the company’s autonomous trains in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. (Photo by Christian Sprogoe Photography | Courtesy of Rio Tinto.)

Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) said on Monday a probe had been launched after one of its autonomous trains in Western Australia derailed on Saturday evening.

The world’s second largest miner said no one was injured in the accident, which involved about 30 wagons of a self-driving iron ore train.

Analysts said the derailment, which took place at 6.30 p.m. about 20 km (12 miles) from Dampier in the Pilbara, had the potential to disrupt Rio Tinto’s exports, but not for long.

“The derailment affected one of the two lines to export ports,” BMO commodities analyst Colin Hamilton wrote. “While it twill potentially affect iron ore transport to port in the coming weeks, we see the company covering its shipments from port stockpiles and thus having less impact on the broader iron ore market.”

This is the second time an autonomous train has failed. In 2018, BHP (ASX: BHP) suspended rail operations in the north of Western Australia after it deliberately derailed a runaway train loaded with iron ore headed for Port Hedland. 

Rio Tinto ships iron ore from Dampier port and through Cape Lambert in the northern part of Western Australia. 

The company operates about 14,000 ore cars across its Pilbara rail network, each of which can hold an estimated 118 tonnes of iron ore.