Canadian diamond mine to build NWT’s largest solar plant

Rio Tinto Diavik Canada Solar

Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond Mine will build the largest solar power plant across Canada’s territories. The facility will feature more than 6,600 solar panels and generate approximately 4,200 MWh of carbon-free electricity annually for the mine, located near Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT).

The Diavik mine, which began operations in 2003 and is 100% owned and operated by Rio Tinto, is Canada’s largest diamond producer and produces 3.5 to 4.5 million carats of rough diamonds per year. Commercial production is expected to end in the first quarter of 2026.

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

The facility will be equipped with bifacial panels that 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. It will cut diesel consumption at the site by approximately 1 million liters per year and reduce emissions by 2,900 tonnes.

“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 chief operating officer 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.”

The solar power 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 MW and provides the site’s electricity.

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

“The Diavik solar power plant is a welcome sign of Rio Tinto’s commitment to renewable energy and reducing emissions,” said Caroline Wawzonek, Finance Minister of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Under the Large Emitter GHG Reducing Investment Grant Program, the Government of the Northwest Territories set aside 12% of the total carbon tax paid by a prescribed large emitter during a fiscal year and makes the fund available to that emitter for projects that contribute to a reduction of GHG emissions in the Northwest Territories. The Diavik Solar Power Plant is the first project to be funded by the program.

“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,” Wawzonek said. “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.”

Diavik Diamond Mine is working with the Government of the Northwest Territories and community partners to determine how its renewable energy infrastructure can best benefit the region following closure.

Rio Tinto is progressing decarbonization initiatives across its global operations, with the aim of reducing its Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 and to achieve net zero across its operations by 2050.

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