An image of an iron ore freight train

A driverless train operated by Rio Tinto has derailed in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, with an investigation into the crash now underway.

In a statement to the ABC, a Rio Tinto spokesperson said that the autonomous train hit a set of stationary wagons roughly 80km outside Karratha just after midnight on Monday 13 May.

The spokesperson told ABC that 22 wagons and three locomotives were impacted.

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

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

“Work will soon begin to clear the rail line.”

The train was reportedly carrying iron ore and heading for port when it crashed. The scope of the cleanup and the time it will take to clear the track and resume operations remains unclear. 

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) told ABC in a statement that it received a report about a collision between a loaded ore train and a recovery train.

An ONRSR spokesperson, “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.

“ONRSR is investigating the incident and will be making a series of enquiries.

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

This event marks the second Rio Tinto derailment in the Pilbara in 2024, after an empty autonomous train derailed 120km from Dampier in February 2024.

Image credit: Adwo/


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