Rio Tinto has signed a power purchase agreement for a renewable energy plant to power QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) ilmenite mine. The mine is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%).
The project is part of a broader initiative to reduce the ilmenite mine’s environmental footprint. Initiatives include programmes that focus on emissions reduction, waste and water management, carbon sequestration, ecological restoration and reforestation.
This project, which uses solar and wind energy, will significantly contribute to Rio Tinto’s operations in Madagascar achieving its carbon neutral objective by 2023.
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The renewable energy plant, to be built, owned and operated by independent power producer, CrossBoundary Energy (CBE), over a 20-year period, will consist of an 8MW solar facility and a 12MW wind energy facility to power mining and processing operations. There will also be a lithium-ion battery energy storage system of up to 8.25MW as reserve capacity to ensure a stable and reliable network.
The renewable energy plant will supply all of QMM’s electricity demand during peak generation times, and up to 60% of the operations’ annual electricity consumption. QMM will replace the majority of the power it currently supplies to the town of Fort Dauphin and the community of around 80,000 people with renewables.
The renewable energy plant will comprise more than 18,000 solar panels and up to nine wind turbines located in the Port Ehoala Park area. Construction is expected to begin this year with the solar plant scheduled to start operations at the beginning 2022. The wind power plant is planned to commence construction early 2022 and become operational by the end of 2022.
QMM President Ny Fanja Rakotomalala, said: “On a sunny and windy day, all the electricity needed by QMM and the Fort Dauphin community will be generated by the Malagasy sun and wind. It is a major step forward on our journey towards a truly sustainable mine, that protects and promotes the uniqueness of Madagascar’s environment and benefits the community with reliable and clean electricity.”
Secretary General, Ministry of Energy and Hydrocarbons of the Republic of Madagascar, Andriatongarivo Tojonirina Andrisoa, said: “The government of Madagascar is committed to the energy transition and to setting up Madagascar to be energy independent, as stated in the President’s Initiative pour l’Emergence de Madagascar (IEM).
“QMM’s renewable energy project, technically ambitious with two installations dedicated to solar and wind, is fully aligned with that vision. It makes Madagascar a global reference point for the use of renewable energy to supply clean, reliable power in the mining sector and other industries, and to the community.”
Rio Tinto Minerals Chief Executive Sinead Kaufman, said: “With this flagship project, QMM is leading the way at Rio Tinto and in Madagascar in utilizing renewable energy to power mining operations and reduce carbon emissions.”
CrossBoundary Energy Co-founder and Managing Partner Matt Tilleard, commented: “Emissions from electricity use in mining is estimated to account for around 1% of all greenhouse gases globally. Rio Tinto is leading the way in demonstrating how mines can seize a huge opportunity to reduce these emissions.”