Rio Tinto to build Canada’s largest solar plant to power Diavik mine

The Diavik diamond mine in Canada is one of the largest open pit mines in the world. Image from Dominion Diamond Mines.

Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) will build Canada’s largest solar power plant to supply electricity to its Diavik Diamond Mine in Northwest Territories, the miner said on Thursday.

The plant with over 6,600 solar panels will generate approximately 4,200 megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity annually for the mine. It is expected to provide up to 25% of Diavik’s electricity during closure work that will run until 2029, with commercial production from the operation expected to end in early 2026.

The facility will be equipped with bi-facial panels which will not only generate energy from direct sunlight, but also from the light that reflects off the snow that covers Diavik for most of the year.

According to the company, the solar plant will cut diesel consumption at the site by approximately one million liters per year and reduce emissions by 2,900 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is comparable to eliminating the emissions of 630 cars.

The project is supported by C$3.3 million ($2.6m) in funding from the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Large Emitters GHG Reducing Investment Grant program, and C$600,000 ($447,000) from the Government of Canada’s Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit.

Construction will start in coming weeks and the solar power plant will be fully operational in the first half of 2024.

Rio Tinto has set a target of reducing its Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2030.

Diavik is Canada’s largest diamond producer, churning out 3.5 million to 4.5 million carats of rough diamonds annually.