Mining giant Rio Tinto buys battery-electric locomotives

Mining giant Rio Tinto has ordered four battery-electric locomotives for use in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Wabtec will produce the four 7 MWh FLXdrive locomotives in the US, beginning in 2023, and Rio Tinto plans to conduct initial trials in the Pilbara in early 2024. The e-locos will be tested against a range of safety and functional criteria, including integration with AutoHaul, an autonomous system that Rio Tinto developed in collaboration with Hitachi.

The company will use the locomotives to carry ore from the company’s mines to its ports, and they will be recharged at purpose-built charging stations at the port or mine.

Roy Hill, another mine operator in the Pilbara region, has ordered a Wabtec FLXdrive loco for delivery in 2023.

“Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and an acknowledgement of the need to increase the pace of our decarbonisation efforts,” said Rio Tinto Managing Director of Port, Rail and Core Services Richard Cohen. “Battery-electric locomotives offer significant potential for emissions reduction in the near term as we seek to reduce our Scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions in the Pilbara by 50 percent by 2030.”

“This locomotive provides the power, fuel savings and emissions reductions to cost-effectively run rail networks in the mining industry,” said Rogerio Mendonca, President of Freight Equipment for Wabtec. “The rapid adoption of the FLXdrive by Rio Tinto and other mining operators demonstrates the industry’s commitment to decarbonising their operations.”

Source: Rio Tinto

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