Tag Archives: Sinead Kaufman

CrossBoundary wind, solar, battery solution set for Rio QMM ilmenite operation

Rio Tinto has signed a power purchasing agreement for a new renewable energy plant to power the operations of its QMM ilmenite mine in Fort Dauphin, Southern Madagascar.

This project, which uses solar and wind energy, will significantly contribute towards Rio Tinto’s operations in Madagascar achieving its carbon neutral objective by 2023, it said. It is part of a broader initiative to reduce the ilmenite mine’s environmental footprint which includes programs that focus on emissions reduction, waste and water management, carbon sequestration, ecological restoration and reforestation.

QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%).

The renewable energy plant, to be built, owned and operated by independent power producer, CrossBoundary Energy, over a 20-year period, will consist of an 8 MW solar facility and a 12 MW wind energy facility to power mining and processing operations. There will also be a lithium-ion battery energy storage system of up to 8.25 MW as reserve capacity to ensure a stable and reliable network.

It will supply all of QMM’s electricity demand during peak generation times, and up to 60% of the operations’ annual electricity consumption, according to Rio. QMM is to replace the majority of the power it currently supplies to the town of Fort Dauphin and the community of around 80,000 people with renewables, the company added.

The renewable energy plant will comprise more than 18,000 solar panels and up to nine wind turbines located in the Port Ehoala Park area. Construction is expected to begin this year with the solar plant scheduled to start operations at the beginning 2022. The wind power plant is planned to commence construction in early 2022 and become operational by the end of 2022.

QMM President, Ny Fanja Rakotomalala, said: “On a sunny and windy day, all the electricity needed by QMM and the Fort Dauphin community will be generated by the Malagasy sun and wind. It is a major step forward on our journey towards a truly sustainable mine, that protects and promotes the uniqueness of Madagascar’s environment and benefits the community with reliable and clean electricity.”

Rio Tinto Minerals Chief Executive, Sinead Kaufman, said: “With this flagship project, QMM is leading the way at Rio Tinto and in Madagascar in utilising renewable energy to power mining operations and reduce carbon emissions.”

CrossBoundary Energy Co-founder and Managing Partner, Matt Tilleard, added: “Emissions from electricity use in mining is estimated to account for around 1% of all greenhouse gases globally. Rio Tinto is leading the way in demonstrating how mines can seize a huge opportunity to reduce these emissions. We are focused on delivering cleaner power to businesses and were, therefore, able to offer Rio Tinto a flexible, fast, all-equity funding approach, combined with our reliable track record as one of Africa’s largest distributed renewable utilities.”

QMM is near Fort Dauphin in the Anosy region of south-eastern Madagascar, and primarily produces ilmenite, in addition to zirsill and monazite. It includes the deep-water Port d’Ehoala, where the raw material is shipped to the Rio Tinto Fer et Titane plant in Canada and processed into titanium dioxide.

Rio Tinto commences lithium production at Boron mine site in California

Rio Tinto says it has commenced production of battery-grade lithium from waste rock at a lithium demonstration plant at the Boron mine site in California, USA.

The demonstration plant is the next step in scaling up a breakthrough lithium production process developed at Boron, to recover the critical mineral and extract additional value out of waste piles from over 90 years of mining at the operation, it said. An initial small-scale trial in 2019 successfully proved the process of roasting and leaching waste rock to recover high grades of lithium.

The demonstration plant has a design capacity of 10 t/y of battery-grade lithium. It will be run throughout 2021 to optimise the process and inform Rio Tinto’s feasibility assessment for progressing to a production-scale plant with an initial capacity of at least 5,000 t/y, or enough to make batteries for around 70,000 electric vehicles.

Rio Tinto Minerals Chief Executive, Sinead Kaufman, said: “This is a valuable next step in scaling up our production of lithium at the Boron site, all from using waste material without the need for further mining. It shows the innovative thinking we are applying across our business to find new ways to meet the demand for emerging commodities like lithium, which are part of the transition to a low-carbon future.”

Rio Tinto’s lithium pipeline includes the Jadar lithium-borate project in Serbia, for which a feasibility study is expected to complete by the end of 2021.

Development of the lithium project at Boron draws on Rio’s long standing partnership with the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI), which is focused on discovering ways to economically recover critical mineral by-products from existing refining and smelting processes. CMI experts worked alongside Rio technical leads to help solve a number of key processing challenges to produce battery grade lithium at Boron, the company said.