Solar Farm To ‘Reduce Carbon Footprint’ Of Miners In North West Minerals Province

Australian energy infrastructure group APA has announced a plan to invest “well over $100 million” to build an 88-megawatt solar farm in Queensland with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint of the North West Minerals Province.
Stage one is underway, which will see $80 million invested in constructing a 44MW solar plant in Mount Isa, near the group’s existing Diamantina Power Station Complex.
The facility, expected to be completed by the 2023 March quarter, will supply renewable energy to MMG Limited’s Dugald River lead-zinc-silver mine, north-west of Cloncurry, as part of a 15-year agreement with APA.
APA said it is in advanced discussions with a number of other customers in the region to commit to the development of stage two to reach 88MW.
It is estimated 300 jobs will be generated in the construction of both stages of the facility, while only two positions will be needed to maintain the solar farm once operational.
Reducing mining emissions in the north-west
Queensland’s North West Minerals Province is one of the richest mineral provinces in Australia.
The region is mined for its zinc and copper deposits — two key metals used in sustainable technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and batteries.
MMG, which is majority-controlled by China Minmetals, said the deal would help the company’s Dugald River mine to lower its emissions and cut costs as demand for its metals increases globally.
“MMG is supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy with the company’s key products, copper and zinc, playing a critical role in the development of sustainable technologies,” a statement from the company read.
APA said the solar farm is an example of the industry’s commitment to the 2050 net zero target.
“We are continuously looking to reduce emissions as we develop power solutions, and that’s good for industry, and it’s good for the community,” said APA group executive, strategy and commercial Julian Peck.
APA’s solar farm would be the second renewable energy initiative launched in Mount Isa over the past two years.
In 2020, Australian company Vast Solar confirmed its $600 million plan to build a 50-megawatt power plant in the region.
Meanwhile, Multicom Resources is planning to establish its Saint Elmo vanadium mine in Julia Creek, as demand for the chemical used in batteries increases.
What about residents?
Member for Traeger, Robbie Katter, said it was encouraging to see a push toward renewable energy from the regions’ mining sector, but more needed to be done for residents.
Mr Katter called for increased investment in a project which would see a 1,000-kilometre transmission line run between Townsville and Mount Isa.
“That’s all nice and well, but we need to support CopperString 2.0 in order to get power prices down for communities across the north-west,” he said.
“Projects like this solar farm do enhance the monopoly of multi-billion dollar companies.
“This doesn’t help at all to address the chronic impact of high power prices across the north-west.”