Rio Tinto to invest $1 billion to meet climate change targets

March 10, 2020

Rio Tinto announced plans to invest US$1 billion to reach its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It has also committed to reduce its emissions 15 percent by 2030.

It's an ambitious goal for the world’s second-largest mining company that builds on the company’s 46 percent cut in emissions since 2008, although much of that reduction was due to it selling operations that produce a lot of pollution.

Rio Tinto’s chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said to reduce its total emissions 15 percent by 2030, every new business opened by Rio Tinto in the next decade will need to be carbon-neutral.

The Guardian reported that in announcing Rio Tinto’s full-year results, Jacques also warned that the coronavirus outbreak could hurt its operations in the near term. Chinese steel mills are major Rio Tinto customers, however Jacques said the company’s iron order books were full.

“But we are likely to see some short-term impacts such as supply chains and possibly even provision of services from Chinese suppliers,” Jacques said. “We acknowledge that there will be some short-term volatility and uncertainty, but we are very well-positioned.”

He said the emissions cut by 2030 would be achieved using existing technology, but Rio Tinto would also be investing part of the $1 billion on developing new ways of eliminating carbon production. “We have approved around US$100 million last week for the Pilbara; I think it would be a good example of things we may look at going forward,” he said.

“It’s a 34MW solar photovoltaic plant and a battery system of 12MW per hour storage facility at one of our operations.

“By doing this investment … we’ll be able to take out about 90 kt (99,208 st) compared to commercial gas-power generation.” This was equivalent to taking 28,000 cars off the road or about 3 percent of the company’s emissions from the Pilbara, he said.

“At the same time we are investing serious money in order to find the technology for the future. We have only a pathway for the next 10 years. If we don’t work today on options beyond the next 10 years, we’ll never get there.”

He defended Rio Tinto’s decision not to set scope three targets — something rival BHP did in July as part of a $400 million program to cut its emissions. “We will not set targets for our customers,” Jacques said. “Having said that, we are looking to partner with our customers and the customers of our customers to look for ways to work together in order to improve emissions across the value chain.”

He said examples included a deal the company struck with giant Chinese steel mill and key customer Baosteel in September to reduce emissions from steelmaking and another deal struck with Apple and the Quebec government two years ago relating to aluminum.

“Remember, we are the only large diversified mining and metal company that is not selling coal, and the carbon associated with coal, or drilling oil and gas and the carbon associated with oil and gas.

“So if you step back, if you believe in climate change — and we do believe in climate change — we know we need to have more high-quality copper and aluminum in order to be part of the solution.”

Photo: In 2018, Rio Tinto approved funding for the $2.6 billion Koodaideri iron ore project, set to be Rio Tinto’s most intelligent mine.

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