Sunshine to power Diavik's sunset years
North of 60 Mining News - August 11, 2023
Last updated 8/24/2023 at 2:41pm
Rio Tinto to build largest solar plant in Canada's North at diamond mine.
Signaling its commitment to clean renewable energy, mining powerhouse Rio Tinto announced its intention to construct the largest solar power plant in Canada's North at its Diavik Diamond Mine – more than 6,600 solar panels that are expected to provide up to 25% of the electricity needed at this iconic operation in Northwest Territories.
"I am delighted that we will be significantly increasing our renewable power generation with the largest solar power plant in Canada's northern territories at the Diavik Diamond Mine," said Angela Bigg, president and COO of the Diavik Diamond Mine. "Through its wind-diesel hybrid power facility, Diavik is already a leader in cold climate renewable technology and this important project reinforces our dedication to reducing our carbon footprint."
To be equipped with bi-facial panels to catch the sun's rays as well as the highly potent reflective rays that come off the snow during the winter season, the proposed 6,600 solar panels will generate roughly 4,200 megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity annually for the mine.
This energy generation is expected to cut diesel consumption at the site by approximately one million liters (264,172 gallons) per year as well as reduce carbon emissions by around 2,900 metric tons of CO2-equivalent, which is comparable to eliminating the emissions of 630 cars.
"I would like to thank both the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada for their support to deploy this project," added Bigg.
Supported by C$3.3 million (US$2.5 million) funding from the Government of Northwest Territories' Large Emitters GHG Reducing Investment Grant program, as well as C$600,000 (US$446,874) from Canada's Clean Energy Electricity Investment Tax Credit, the solar plant will significantly expand Diavik's renewable energy generation, which already features a wind-diesel hybrid power facility that has a capacity of 55.4 megawatts.
Although the mine is set to shutter operations in 2025, with work toward closure already underway, the solar power plant will provide up to 25% of Diavik's electricity during this closure work, which will run until 2029.
The company says commercial production from the operation is expected to end in early 2026, but a solar plant of this size implies this may not be the case.
"The Diavik solar power plant is a welcome sign of Rio Tinto's commitment to renewable energy and reducing emissions. The Government of the Northwest Territories is pleased to have provided support through the Large Emitters GHG Reducing Investment Grant program, one of the original pieces of our made-in-the-NWT approach to the federal carbon tax," said Northwest Territories Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek. "This collaboration exemplifies our commitment to facilitating sustainable development while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Northwest Territories and should be a signal of how our economic development can continue to position us as leaders in these spaces."
In addition to the potential carbon reduction for mine operations, Diavik management is working with Northwest Territories government as well as community partners to determine how its renewable energy infrastructure can best benefit the region following the closure.
Progressing its decarbonization initiatives across its global operations, Rio Tinto aims to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, targeted to be fully net-zero across its operations by 2050.
Construction of the solar field is slated to begin in the coming weeks, with the plant expected to be fully operational in the first half of 2024.