The smaller trucks, which won’t be suitable for all mines, are expected to make it easier in terms of recharging and replacing batteries as Rio targets fleet electrification.
Rio is working on the trucking transformation with Scania under a long-term research and development collaboration agreement.
The work so far has focused on advancing autonomous technology at the Channar mine in Western Australia and includes the option for transition to electric-power.
Trials on Scania’s 40-tonne autonomous trucks only started in April, but Rio has flagged that the use of “right-sized trucks” can improve resource recovery by 3 per cent, reduce strip ration and mine footprint by 10 per cent and deliver big capital expenditure savings.
Rio group technical managing director Santi Pal said the company’s climate action plan included phasing out the purchase of new diesel haul trucks by 2030.
“Partnering with industry leaders such as Scania across a range of fields is an important step towards achieving that,” he said.
“As well as the potential decarbonisation benefits, this partnership provides a path to potential productivity improvements.”
Scania vice-president and head of autonomous solutions, Peter Hafmar, said Rio was its Swedish-based commercial vehicle manufacturer’s first customer as it looked to mining on a pathway to net zero emissions.
“This is a major step towards the goals of a sustainable autonomous mining solution, and builds on our already fruitful long-term collaboration,” he said.
The Rio move to downsize haul trucks comes amid plans by Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources to build a private road for a fleet of giant-sized road trains to haul iron ore from stranded deposits in the west Pilbara to port facilities at Onslow, in WA.