Rio buys battery-powered electric trains for the Pilbara

PERTH ( – Mining giant Rio Tinto will purchase four battery-powered electric trains for use in the Pilbara as part of its strategy to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

Rio announced on Tuesday that it had purchased the four FLXdrive 7 MWh battery electric locomotives from Wabtec Corporation, which is expected to begin production in the United States in 2023 before first tests at Pilbara in early 2024.

The locomotives, used to transport ore from the company’s mines to its ports, will be recharged at recharging stations specially designed for the port or mine. They will also be able to generate additional energy during transport thanks to a regenerative braking system that takes energy from the train and uses it to recharge the on-board batteries.

A complete transition to net-zero-emission technology of its entire fleet of rail locomotives would reduce the diesel-related carbon emissions of Rio’s iron ore division in the Pilbara by about 30% per year.

Rio Tinto MD of port, rail and basic services Richard cohen said delivery of prototype locomotives will be an important first step for the company on the way to a low-carbon Pilbara.

“Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and a recognition of the need to step up the pace of our decarbonization efforts.

“Battery-powered electric locomotives offer significant short-term emission reduction potential as we seek to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions in the Pilbara by 50% by 2030.”

Rogerio Mendonca, president of Freight Equipment for Wabtec, said the FLXdrive is ideally suited to support Rio’s decarbonization goals.

“This locomotive provides the power, fuel economy and emission reductions necessary to profitably operate the mining industry’s rail networks. The rapid adoption of FLXdrive by Rio Tinto and other mining operators demonstrates the industry’s commitment to decarbonize their operations.

Once delivered, the locomotives will be tested in controlled environments in the Pilbara and tested against a range of safety and functional criteria, including integration with AutoHaul.

This flagship project reaffirms Rio Tinto’s commitment to significantly reduce carbon emissions by switching to renewable energy and deploying mobile electric fleets across the Pilbara.

In December last year, Rio called on builders in Western Australia to show interest in building 100 wagons for its Pilbara iron ore mining operations, saying it would initially purchase 50 wagons from of the selected supplier, followed by a continuous commitment of 10 wagons. one year for the next five years.

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