Weipa bauxite mine, Australia
Weipa bauxite mine, Australia

An Australian mineral mine is to run on on-site solar power.

Mining firm Rio Tinto has contracted US-based First Solar to build a US$23 million solar photovoltaic plant at a bauxite mine in Weipa, Queensland.  

The plant will initially have a capacity of 1.7 MW and is planned to be expanded to 5 MW after commissioning.  

In its first phase, the project is expected to offset up to 20% of the mine’s daytime electricity demand, while reducing around 600,000 litres of diesel use per year. Gareth Manderson, Rio Tinto’s Weipa general manager, expects the plant to also reduce carbon emissions by 1600 tonnes per year.  

The project will be funded in part by an $11.8 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Jack Curtis, First Solar’s vice president of business development for Asia Pacific, said, ‘Solar has come down dramatically in costs over the past few years and we believe that it has a lot of potential to replace expensive diesel fuel at a lot of remote sites including mine sites.’