Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) has approved a $98-million investment to build a solar plant, Western Australia’s first, which will power the company’s new Koodaideri iron ore mine, in the resource-rich Pilbara region.
The plan includes building a lithium-ion battery energy storage system that would help power the miner’s entire Pilbara power network, the company said.
The 34-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility is expected to supply all of Koodaideri’s electricity demand during peak solar power generation times, and about 65% of the mine’s average electricity demand when it begins operations in late 2021.
The plant, comprising an estimated 100,000 panels, would be Rio’s second solar facility in Australia, but its first company-owned one.
Together with the energy storage system, the facility is estimated to lower annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 90,000 tonnes compared to conventional gas powered generation. This is the equivalent of taking about 28,000 cars off the road, the world’s second largest iron ore producer said.
The $2.6-billion Koodaideri mine will be the miner’s first intelligent operation, incorporating the latest in high-tech advances in the industry and using an increased level of automation and robotics.
The iron ore project, approved in November 2018, is located about 35 km north-west of the company’s Yandicoogina mine, and about 110 km from the town of Newman.
It is expected to have a capacity of 43 million tonnes of iron ore a year, but could be expanded to yield 70 million tonnes or more at a later date.
Koodaideri will become a new production hub for Rio Tinto’s iron ore business in the Pilbara, incorporating a processing plant and infrastructure including a 166-km rail line connecting the mine to the existing network.