The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

Rio Tinto's Diavik solar plant goes live

North of 60 Mining News - July 10, 2024

Clean energy will reduce emissions at Diavik Diamond Mine in its remaining years.

After little more than half a year since announcing plans to build the largest solar power plant in Canada's remote north, Rio Tinto reports the completion of its 3.5-megawatt solar facility at the company's Diavik diamond mine in Northwest Territories, Canada.

Nearly six months after the February start of construction, this significant project has reached completion and is ready to enhance the mine's energy sustainability in its final years before closure.

The solar installation at Diavik was supported by a C$3.3 million (US$2.42 million) grant from the government of the Northwest Territories' Large Emitters GHG Reducing Investment Grant Program. This was the first project to benefit from funding through the program, which operates by setting aside a portion of the carbon tax paid by large operations such as Diavik for projects that commit to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction projects in the territory.

The 6,620-panel facility is expected to generate 4.2 million kilowatt-hours of solar energy annually, reducing diesel consumption at Diavik by one million liters (264,172 gallons) per year and cutting GHG emissions by 2,900 metric tons of CO2-equivalent. This reduction is comparable to removing 630 cars from the road each year.

Equipped with bi-facial panels, the plant will not only generate energy from direct sunlight but also harness the reflective rays from the snow that covers the region for most of the year. This innovative technology will provide up to 25% of the mine's electricity during the closure work, with commercial production at the mine expected to end in 2026 and closure to run until 2029.

Complementing this solar power plant is Diavik's wind power facility, which has been operational since 2012. Also considered the largest wind power installation in Canada's North, it has generated over 195 million kilowatt-hours of electricity since activation, further showcasing Rio Tinto's commitment to renewable energy.

"The largest off-grid solar power plant in Canada's North is our latest commitment to the environment we live and work in, and will improve the energy efficiency of our operations at Diavik," said Matthew Breen, COO at Diavik. "We are proud to lead the way for large-scale renewable energy projects in Canada's North."

The project was constructed with the help of Whitehorse-based Solvest Inc. and the Indigenous-owned Tłıchǫ Investment Corporation, with approximately 30% of the construction workforce coming from the Tłıchǫ Investment Corporation. This collaboration highlights Rio Tinto's commitment to involving local communities and Indigenous partners in its sustainable initiatives.

Rio Tinto

Whitehorse-based Solvest Inc. and Indigenous-owned Tłıchǫ Investment Corp. began construction of the Diavik solar farm in February.

"Building off the success of their wind farm constructed in 2012, Diavik has taken another significant step forward in demonstrating the viability of renewable energy for Northern and off-grid mines," said Ben Power, CEO of Solvest Inc. "We believe this project provides a blueprint to facilitate the integration of solar into mines across Canada and in Northern regions."

Diavik is also working with territorial and community partners to determine how its renewable energy infrastructure can best benefit the region following closure.

"I commend Rio Tinto for the completion of the largest off-grid solar plant in Canada's North at the Diavik mine," said Northwest Territories' Minister of Infrastructure Caroline Wawzonek. "The project demonstrates Rio Tinto's leadership when it comes to reducing emissions, and signals potential for leadership in the renewable energy sector in and by the North. The Government of the Northwest Territories is proud to have contributed to the project through the Large Emitters GHG Reducing Investment Grant program, which provides funding to industry to reduce emissions as part of our made-in-the-NWT approach to the federal carbon tax."

Progressing its decarbonization initiatives across its global operations, Rio Tinto aims to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions by 50% by 2030, with a target to achieve net-zero across its operations by 2050.


Reader Comments(0)