Rio Tinto to build solar power plant at Diavik Mine in Canada
Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond Mine will build the largest solar power plant across Canada’s territories, featuring over 6,600 solar panels that will generate approximately 4,200 megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity annually for the mine according to a report from Business Wire.
The solar power plant will provide up to 25 percent of Diavik’s electricity during closure work that will run until 2029, with commercial production from the operation expected to end in early 2026.
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 one million liters per year and reduce emissions by 2,900 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is comparable to eliminating the emissions of 630 cars.
Construction will start in coming weeks and the solar power plant will be fully operational in the first half of 2024.
President and Chief Operating Officer of the Diavik Diamond Mine Angela Bigg said: “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. 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. I would like to thank both the overnment of the Northwest Territories and the government of Canada for their support to deploy this project.”
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 CAN$3.3 million in funding from the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Large Emitters GHG Reducing Investment Grant program, and CAN$600,000 from the Government of Canada’s Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit.
Government of the Northwest Territories Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said: “The Diavik solar power plant is a welcome sign of Rio Tinto’s commitment to renewable energy and reducing emissions. 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. 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 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 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and to achieve net zero across its operations by 2050.
The Diavik mine, 100 percent 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 annum. Since mining began in 2003 Diavik has produced over 100 million carats of diamonds. Commercial production is expected to end in the first quarter of 2026.
Under the Large Emitter Greenhouse Gas Reducing Investment Grant Program, the GNWT set aside 12 percent 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 greenhouse gas emissions in the Northwest Territories. The Diavik Solar Power Plant is the first project to be funded by the Large Emitter Greenhouse Gas Reducing Investment Grant Program.
Photo of the Diavik mine courtesy of Rio Tinto.