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Rio Tinto’s CEO discussed the limitations of solar energy supply in powering their mining operations in Australia.

Addressing the World Economic Forum summit, Rio Tinto’s chief executive officer (CEO) discussed the limitations of solar energy supply in powering their mining operations in Australia.

In particular, Jakob Stausholm made note of the enormous sites required for solar and wind alternatives.

“We’re used to big sites in mining but, quite frankly, mining sites are small compared to the scale of these parks – and the world has not really done this at scale yet,” he said.

The process of acquiring the land in Australia is no easy feat, either. Stausholm is cutting no corners in taking the time to work with local communities and Indigenous populations, to whom the land bears cultural significance.

“You actually first have to acquire the land, you have to get working with Indigenous people, you have to go through the cultural clearance of sites, etcetera,” he said.

Stausholm’s World Economic Forum address follows Rio Tinto having commissioned a 34-megawatt solar power plant for its Gudai-Darri ore mine in the Pilbara, as well as a further $600 million pledge for two 100MW solar power facilities and a 200 MWh on-grid battery storage plant in iron ore region.

These projects form part of Rio’s larger mission to supply one gigawatt of green energy to its Pilbara site within the decade. The company is further seeking to establish solar and wind energy sites to supply its Queensland industry.

Construction is also underway on the $2 billion Macintyre wind farm in Queensland, a move backed by the Federal Government, which has pledged $20 billion to renewables nation-wide.

“It’s early in the process, but this is an important step towards meeting our group climate change target of halving our emissions by the end of the decade,” Rio Tinto’s aluminium chief Ivan Vella said of the company’s switch to wind and solar.

Despite the ambitious scope of the project, Stausholm remains committed, but cautious.

“There is something about bureaucratic procedure and permitting you can break down,” he said. “But the whole process of environmental impact assessment is a proven thing; it works well. Obviously, we should try to speed it up.”

“People say, ‘Oh, Australia, perfect. Lots of sun, lots of space’.

“It’s not that easy.”