In the remote Australian outback, multinational companies are embarking on a secretive new kind of mining expedition.
Rio Tinto has long mined the Pilbara region of Western Australia for iron ore riches but now the company is seeking to extract a rather different kind of resource – its own employees, for data.
Thousands of Rio Tinto personnel live in company-run mining camps, spending not just work hours but leisure and home time in space controlled by their employer – which in this emerging era of smart infrastructure presents the opportunity to hoover up every detail of their lives.
Rio Tinto is no stranger to using technology to improve efficiency, having replaced human-operated vehicles with automated haul trucks and trains controlled out of a central operations centre in Perth.
The company is embarking on an attempt to manage its remaining human workers in the same way, and privacy advocates fear it could set a precedent that extends well beyond the mining industry.