One of Rio Tinto's autonomous haul trucks in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Courtesy of Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has greenlit development of its “most technologically advanced mine,” the Koodaideri iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The company approved a US$2.6-billion investment in Koodaideri on Thursday. Construction is expected to begin in 2019, subject to approval from the Western Australian government, and Rio Tinto expects the mine’s first production in late 2021.

Koodaideri is projected to have an annual production of 43 million tonnes of iron ore.

The mine will use technology such as autonomous trucks, trains and drills, advanced data analytics and an automated workshop to achieve greater efficiency and environmental performance while lowering production costs, the company said.

Koodaideri is expected to use more than 70 innovations, including a full integration of the mine’s automation and simulation systems, a digital twin of its processing plant that workers can access in real-time and a fully connected “mining value chain.”

Related: Rio Tinto’s Stephen McIntosh is overseeing the transformation of the company’s operations through automation and advanced technologies

“Koodaideri is a game-changer for Rio Tinto,” said Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques. “It will be the most technologically advanced mine we have ever built and sets a new benchmark for the industry in terms of the adoption of automation and the use of data to enhance safety and productivity.”

Koodaideri will be developed in two phases, with the first acting to supplement the company’s current production capacity and increase the higher-value lump component of its Pilbara iron ore blend, to 38 per cent iron ore content from 35 per cent currently.

The company approved a US$44-million pre-feasibility study into developing phase two, which would aim to increase the mine’s annual production to 70 million tonnes.

Plans for the mine include a new 166-kilometre railway system that will connect the mine to the rest of Rio Tinto’s existing Pilbara network, an airport, mine infrastructure and support facilities, and employee accommodation.

Koodaideri is expected to provide 2,000 jobs, including 600 permanent positions once construction is completed.