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AP Photo/Rohan Sullivan
LOOK MA NO HANDS

A mining giant is switching over to all-drone trucks at two of its biggest sites

By Frida Garza

Drones aren’t just for airplanes and helicopters: British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto is switching exclusively to remote-operated trucks at two major iron-ore mines in western Australia’s remote Pilbara region.

The Yandicoogina and Nammuldi mines started using drone trucks to move all of their iron ore from their pits starting today (Oct. 19), according to Australia’s ABC News. The trucks will be remotely operated by workers at a center in Perth, some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) away. The driverless truck system is designed to eliminate dangerous jobs while also cutting costs.

Some of Rio Tinto’s other futuristic gear doesn’t involve human operators at all: It run a separate network of autonomous trucks, trains, and drills, part of the mining industry’s attempt to trim staffing costs at its remote and dangerous mining sites. Rio Tinto also operates a fleet of drone aircraft to monitor sites and equipment: