The government of Madagascar and Rio Tinto QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) on December 10 celebrated the start of construction of a solar and wind energy project that will supply the ilmenite mine operations in Fort Dauphin, in southern Madagascar.
The renewable energy project is vital to the implementation of QMM's sustainable mine concept and enabling Rio Tinto's operations in Madagascar to reach carbon neutrality by 2023.
The renewable energy project, which will comprise 8 MW of solar capacity and 12 MW of wind capacity, is being built by independent power producer CrossBoundary Energy (CBE) under a 20-year power purchase agreement.
About 18 000 solar panels and four wind turbines will be installed as part of the project, which will also include an 8.25 MW lithium-ion battery energy storage system.
The solar plant is expected to start operations in 2022 and the wind plant in 2023.
The project will meet all of QMM's electricity needs during peak period and will provide up to 60% of its yearly electricity consumption. It will also enable QMM to reduce its carbon dioxide emission by about 26 000 t/y and its heavy fuel oil purchases by up to 8 500 t/y.
QMM will also replace the majority of the electricity it currently supplies to the town of Fort Dauphin and its 80 000 community members with clean energy.
"This project is a key component of our ‘sustainable mine’ initiative, which aims to leave a lasting legacy for present and future generations, built independently of our mining operations.
"We want to leave this legacy through permanent dialogue, the full integration of activities within the development plan of the region, responsible social and environmental governance, the reduction of our environmental footprint and therefore of our carbon footprint, and through the creation of economic and social opportunities increasingly independent of QMM.
"This project is a strategic test, not only in Madagascar but also in the mining industry as a whole, as we have to innovate and rethink our operations in order to combat climate change and leave a sustainable legacy," QMM president Ny Fanja Rakotomalala said during an event to celebrate the start of construction on December 10.
CBE managing partner Matt Tilleard said the QMM project would greatly improve Madagascar's standing as a regional renewable energy leader.
"This project is important in Madagascar's development strategy, particularly within the Plan Emergence Sud, which makes access to electricity for the people of the Anosy region a priority. We are pleased to see this project start on schedule, thanks to the unwavering commitment of all project sponsors and regulators.
"We are creating a public-private partnership model that will position Madagascar as a destination for technological innovation in the field of renewable energy and attract new expertise," Madagascar Energy and Hydrocarbons Minister Andry Ramaroson added.
During the ceremony, Energy Minister Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina stressed the importance of Madagascar, and Africa as a whole, pursuing clean renewable energy, stating that this was a priority for the government of Madagascar.