Below Rail Infrastructure, Freight Rail, Safety, Standards & Regulation
Freight Rail, Research & Development, Technology and IT
Aurizon has increased its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by 10 per cent on the previous year’s results and a 12 per cent increase in profit.
This improvement was largely driven by increased earnings from Aurizon’s managing of the Central Queensland Coal Network (CQCN) and strong performance of the company’s bulk business.
These results include the impact of COVID-19 on the business, which managing director and CEO Andrew Harding said had limited impact.
“Despite the emergence of COVID-19 in the second half of FY2020, the Company has delivered a solid operational and financial performance with no material impact as a result of the pandemic,” said Harding.
With much of Aurizon’s business involving the haulage of metallurgical coal, consistent steel production in China and a rebound of steel production in India in May and June helped the freight operator through the COVID-19 period. In addition, a drop in US metallurgical coal exports contributed.
In Aurizon’s coal business, it added new customers including Peabody and Bluescope and added volume in the contract with Coronado.
On the bulk side of the business, Aurizon added contracts with BGC for cement products from Kalgoorlie. Aurizon extended its contracts with South32 Cannington and Incitec Pivot, both on the Mt Isa corridor. Aurizon began the operation and maintenance of a ballast cleaning machine for Rio Tinto in the Pilbara and there was an increase in demand from Mineral Resources. These led to a 21 per cent increase in revenue from bulk operations.
In Aurizon’s management of the CQCN there was a shortfall of volume. Volumes are expected to be lower in the next year due to COVID-19.
Aurizon also reported on its safety record over the 2019-2020 financial year. While there was a 10 per cent improvement in the total recordable injury frequency rate, there was an 8 per cent deterioration in rail process safety performance.
Freight Rail, Workforce, Certification & Training
Mining major Rio Tinto has joined the Western Australia Government and technology partner Hitachi Rail STS to celebrate the successful rollout of its AutoHaul autonomous freight rail network.
The project, which has been in the making for over 10 years since the launch of Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future initiative in 2008, is formally considered the world’s first automated heavy-haul long distance rail network, and delivering its first iron ore in July 2018. The driverless train system has also been informally referred to by Rio Tinto itself as the “world’s largest robot”.
The 2.4 kilometre-long trains, which are monitored and controlled from Rio Tinto’s Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Perth, deliver iron ore from 16 mines to ports in Dampier and Cape Lambert across a 1,700-kilometre network. In total, the trains have now travelled over 4.5 million kilometres collectively since their first deployment last year.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director Ivan Vella said that the project had attracted worldwide interest and cemented Western Australia as a heavy-haul rail leader.
“The success of AutoHaul would not have been possible without the expertise, collaboration and dedication of teams within Rio Tinto and our numerous partners,” said Vella.
WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston also congratulated Rio Tinto, Hitachi and other partners on the project (which includes companies such as New York Air Brake and Wabtec) for their dedication to delivering AutoHaul.
“AutoHaul has brought the rail freight industry in this country into the 21st century and is rightfully the subject of global interest,” Johnston said. “I’d also like to mention that the development of the world’s biggest robot is such a success because of the contribution from Western Australia’s skilled engineers and innovative workers.”
Western Australia-based contractor Yurra has been awarded a contract to provide maintenance services to Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s Pilbara rail network in Western Australia.
The contract with Yurra, which is majority owned by the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC), is the largest yet for the Roebourne-based company, being valued at $20 million over a five-year period.
The contract is intended to grow Yurra as a business (providing 20 new local jobs for Aboriginal workers), while also bringing benefits to the wider Roebourne community.
Rio Tinto has held an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with YAC since July 2013, and has previously awarded contracts totalling $15 million in value to Yurra.
“Through ongoing contract opportunities we will continue to push the boundaries to improve and raise the living standards of Indigenous peoples of the region,” said YAC chief executive officer Michael Woodley.
“This opportunity shows that we are collectively looking to the future and that Yurra has become a trusted contracting partner.”
In addition to the rail contract, Rio Tinto also announced the award of a $10 million deal with Yurra sister company GBSC Yurra to refurbish worker accommodation at its Paraburdoo iron ore mine.
Ivan Vella, Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director for rail, port and core services commented that Yurra had demonstrated a strong ability to deliver a range of services through its work with the mining major.
“Yurra’s ability to maintain high levels of efficiency and low overheads despite their continued growth is a credit to their management and leadership team,” he said.
“This contract is one of the first of its kind for Rio Tinto Iron Ore and one which we hope will prove a catalyst for many others like it in the future.”
Rio Tinto’s Pilbara network is Australia’s largest privately owned-and-operated rail system. It runs a total length of 1,700km, incorporating 16 iron ore mines and four port terminals.