Rio keeps tech options open

Andrew Harding. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian.

Rio Tinto iron ore boss Andrew Harding has left the door ajar for the global miner to pivot from mining and into the technology sphere, saying the company is now more like Google than a traditional mining company.

Speaking before it releases its half-year profit numbers today, expected to be $US.4.57 billion ($4.94 billion), Mr Harding said there were "many, many comparisons" between Rio and the Californian tech giant as the miner was an "information management" business.

The comments were made during a speech on Rio Tinto's "mine of the future" at an Engineering Week event yesterday.

Mr Harding was responding to a question from the audience about whether Rio would move beyond mining into technology.

Although he said the company would stay "anchored" in mining, he said technology was a strategic option that the Rio Tinto team was examining.

"Essentially there are two businesses globally that are in the same information management space," Mr Harding said.

"Rio Tinto is one of them, and I'm probably going to shock you with the other one, but the other one is Google.

"The amount of money that Google spends in the space is astronomically larger than us, and we're doing it for a very specific, single-minded purpose, but there are many, many comparisons between the two."

Mr Harding, who oversees Rio Tinto's world-leading autonomous mining operations in the Pilbara, said the miner was also active in big data and was pushing to analyse more of the 13 terabytes it stored every month. It examines only 4 to 5 per cent but believed it would gain further efficiencies if it were in a position to increase this.

Speaking about the challenges the company faced at its autonomous operations, Mr Harding most related to trying to convince its employees that technology was a good thing, not something to be scared of.