- Rio Tinto has joined hands with YEC to explore the development of renewable energy in Pilbara
- It is aimed at displacing the use of gas across the mining company’s network
- A 300 MW solar farm is the initial project to be undertaken under the MoU
Anglo-Australian metals miner Rio Tinto has secured the support of traditional landowners in Western Australia’s Pilbara to explore wind, solar and battery energy storage projects in Yindjibarndi country. The move is aimed at helping Rio reduce its carbon footprint by replacing gas use in its mining operations with clean energy.
The mining group expects about 600 MW to 700 MW of renewable energy generation capacity to displace majority of gas use across its network that currently comes from 4 gas-fired power stations in Pilbara.
It will undertake the same with Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation (YEC) under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed. A joint venture between Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) and renewable energy developer ACEN Corporation (ACEN), YEC was launched in July 2023 to develop up to 3 GW renewable energy capacity in Pilbara (see 3 GW Solar & Wind Projects On Aboriginal Land In Pilbara).
Rio’s rail network that connects its Pilbara mines to ports at Cape Lambert and Dampier in Western Australia, crosses Yindjibarndi country. “We recognize we have a large carbon footprint in the Pilbara and are exploring a number of innovative solutions to help address this, including future collaborations with other Traditional Owner groups in the region,” said Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Simon Trott.
To begin with, Rio seeks to develop close to 300 MW of solar projects to power its iron ore operations in Pilbara. YEC said it will target to construct 750 MW of combined wind, solar and storage capacity over the next few years under the initial stage.
“We are focused on repowering our Pilbara operations with renewable energy through the end of this decade and beyond by replacing gas and diesel with clean energy alternatives,” added Trott. “The Pilbara is blessed with abundant year-round sunshine and strong winds at night, making it one of the most attractive places in the world to harness solar and wind power for energy generation.”
Recently, the traditional owners of land MG Corporation and Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation gave their consent to a 900 MW solar farm in Pilbara to power a green hydrogen plant (see Indigenous Communities Back Clean Energy Project).