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Rio Tinto has successfully completed the full transition of its heavy machinery from fossil diesel to renewable diesel at its Boron operations.

The Boron operations is located in California as part of Rio Tinto’s American operations, and is now the first open pit mine in the world to fully utilise renewable diesel.

Rio Tinto said the change to renewable diesel brings an anticipated carbon dioxide equivalent reduction of up to 45,000 tonnes per year, comparable to eliminating the annual emissions of approximately 9600 cars.

The transition arrives after an initial trial of switching fossil diesel to renewable diesel in a US Borax haul truck was conducted through 2022 in partnership with Neste and Rolls-Royce.

In the trail, Rio Tinto’s US Borax business used the Neste MY Renewable Diesel, which is sustainably sourced and uses 100 per cent renewable raw materials such as used cooking oil and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75 per cent over the life cycle of the fuel compared to fossil diesel.

Results from the trial showed that a truck running on renewable diesel delivered similar performance and reliability as trucks running on conventional diesel.

Based on these positive results, Rio Tinto US Borax continued to work with the two companies, along with the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California to fully transition its heavy machinery fleet onsite to renewable diesel at the end of May 2023.

Rio Tinto minerals chief executive Sinead Kaufman said the company is proud that its US Borax operations have become the first open pit mine to operate a fleet running entirely on renewable diesel.

“This is an excellent example of what happens when internal and external partners collaborate toward a carbon reduction goal. Support from the state of California has also been incredibly important, as without their vision, this would not have been possible,” Kaufman said.

“The transition at Boron is an important first step and will undoubtedly lead to further opportunities to decarbonise our global operations. Renewable diesel is one of several sustainability solutions that Rio Tinto is using to transform its businesses.”