Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto has unveiled plans to spend $600m in renewable energy projects in the Pilbara, Western Australia, to decarbonise its iron ore operations.

The investment forms part of the firm’s efforts to halve its CO₂ emissions by the end of this decade.

It will be used by the mining giant to build two 100MW solar projects and a 200MWh on-grid battery storage by 2026 in Pilbara.

Rio Tinto iron ore CEO Simon Trott said: “The Pilbara is extremely well-positioned to take advantage of renewable power with land, access to people, and abundant wind and solar resources.

“We expect to invest around $3bn to install renewable energy assets as well as transmission and storage upgrades in the Pilbara as part of our commitment to halve our emissions from the Pilbara by the end of this decade.”

The initial funding has been approved for a 100MW solar photovoltaic system and associated transmission infrastructure on the Pilbara coast.

This project will involve the deployment of about 225,000 solar panels. Construction on the project is planned to commence in 2023 with commissioning scheduled in 2025.

Rio Tinto expects the new renewable projects to reduce nearly 300,000t of CO₂, equivalent to a 10% decrease in total Scope 1 and 2 emissions from its Pilbara iron ore business based on 2021 levels.

The firm said in a statement: “It will also reduce gas costs by approximately $55m per annum at current prices by displacing around 30% of the company’s current gas consumption in the Pilbara.”

As part of its efforts to halve emissions by 2030 through an investment of $7.5bn, Rio Tinto plans to install a 1GW renewable capacity system in the Pilbara.

The statement adds: “This will include significant investment in transmission infrastructure to support full decarbonisation of the Pilbara including electrification of mobile and rail equipment beyond 2030, which is estimated to require up to 3GW of installed renewable energy assets.”