Rio Tinto to build first solar plant in Western Australia to power iron ore mine; 12 MWh Li-ion system
Rio Tinto approved a $98-million investment in a new solar plant at the new Koodaideri mine in the Pilbara, Australia, as well as a lithium-ion battery energy storage system to help power its entire Pilbara power network.
The $2.6-billion Koodaideri mine was approved in November last year with construction commencing earlier this year. Production capacity will be 43 million tonnes annually with first production is expected to commence by the end of 2021. Koodaideri will deliver a new production hub for Rio Tinto’s world-class iron ore business in the Pilbara, incorporating a processing plant and infrastructure including a 166-kilometer rail line connecting the mine to the existing network.
Koodaideri will feature technology already in use across Rio Tinto, such as autonomous trucks, trains and drills, and implement systems connecting all components of the mining value chain for the first time.
The 34 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant is expected to supply all of Koodaideri’s electricity demand during peak solar power generation times and approximately 65% of the mine’s average electricity demand.
The plant, Rio Tinto’s first company-owned solar facility, will consist of an estimated 100,000 panels, covering an area of 105 hectares (0.41 square miles). Construction is expected to begin later this year, subject to government approvals, and is due to be completed in 2021.
Complementing it will be a new 12 MWh battery energy storage system in Tom Price that will provide spinning reserve generating capacity to support a stable and reliable network.
The solar plant and battery are estimated to lower annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 90,000 tonnes compared to conventional gas-powered generation.
Koodaideri, 100% owned by Rio Tinto, is located approximately 35 kilometers north-west of Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina mine site, and about 110 kilometers from the town of Newman.
The operation has been designed to utilize an increased level of automation and digitization, helping to deliver a safer and more productive mine which is expected to be Rio Tinto’s lowest-cost contributor to its industry benchmark Pilbara Blend product.
Through the use of digital assets, advanced data analytics and automation, Rio Tinto expects to enhance the operation and maintenance of this new mine.
Koodaideri is a game-changer for Rio Tinto. It will be the most technologically advanced mine we have ever built and sets a new benchmark for the industry in terms of the adoption of automation and the use of data to enhance safety and productivity.—Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques
Funding for the solar plant and battery sits within Rio Tinto’s existing guidance for sustaining capital expenditure for its iron ore business.