Rio Tinto is believed to have completed its first Pilbara Autohaul run from port to pit without a driver on board.

The Pilbara News understands the first run was made at the end of June, and the company is doing two to three trips a day with no driver on board.

A spokesman said the project was on schedule to be completed by the end of the year. “Following regulatory approval we advised that a phased approach to deploying autonomous trains would be followed,” he said.

“Autohaul will deliver big safety and productivity benefits to business.” The original goal was to complete the project in 2015 on a $694 million budget, but it’s believed that figure has blown out significantly.

A 100km pilot run without a driver on board from Tom Price to Paraburdoo was made in 2017, and the company has been running more than half of its trains in autonomous mode since.

The miner expects to have more than 130 driverless trucks and 20 autonomous rigs operating across its Pilbara mines by the end of the year.

The completion of Autohaul is expected to allow the miner to move 353 million tonnes of ore a year via a more efficient network.