Rio Tinto autonomous train derails in the Pilbara at Galah Station near Karratha

Adrian Rauso and Simone Grogan
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto Credit: Supplied

A laden Rio Tinto train has come off the tracks in the Pilbara after smashing into stationary wagons, the mining giant’s third driverless train to derail in the Pilbara within the space of a year.

The mining giant in a statement said an autonomous train was derailed about 80 kilometres outside Karratha just after midnight on Monday.

“The incident occurred when an autonomous train collided with a set of stationary wagons, impacting 22 wagons and three locomotives,” it said.

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“There were no people within the vicinity of the incident and no injuries.

“We have notified the appropriate regulators and commenced an investigation.”

Rio also said work will soon begin to clear the rail line, but it’s unclear how long that could take.

The moving wagons were loaded with iron ore when they careened into the halted wagons.

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator said it is investigating the accident.

“The recovery train is reported to have collided with the ore train it was sent to recover after it was disabled by a mechanical failure,” a spokesman said.

“At this stage these are focused on the operation of and adherence to signalling systems in the area.”

The latest incident comes only months after a Rio Tinto train derailed about 120km from Dampier in February, wiping out 38 wagons.

The derailment of that train — which a Rio spokeswoman said was empty and in autonomous mode at the time — was the first of 2024 in WA’s mining industry.

Another driverless Rio Tinto train went off the tracks in June last year when as many as 30 wagons left the tracks about 20km from Dampier.

Across all three incidents no one was injured.

Rio Tinto operates a sprawling rail network of nearly 2000 kilometres which it uses to haul tonnes of the steelmaking commodity from mine to port.

The miner transitioned to a driverless network in 2019.

Rio has about 17 iron ore mines in the Pilbara and produced more than 330 million tonnes of iron ore in 2023.

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