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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Rio Tinto US Borax becomes 1st open-pit mine to fully transition heavy machinery to renewable diesel

Photo: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto announced in early June that it has successfully completed the full transition of its heavy machinery from fossil diesel to renewable diesel at its Boron, California, operation, making it the first open-pit mine in the world to achieve this milestone.

The change to renewable diesel brings an anticipated CO2-equivalent reduction of up to 45,000 metric tons per year, comparable to eliminating the annual emissions of approximately 9,600 cars.

“We are proud that our U.S. Borax operations have become the first open-pit mine to operate a fleet running entirely on renewable diesel,” said Sinead Kaufman, the chief executive of Rio Tinto Minerals. “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.”

An initial trial of switching fossil diesel to renewable diesel in a U.S. Borax haul truck was conducted throughout last year in partnership with Neste and Rolls-Royce.

Rio Tinto U.S. Borax used Neste MY Renewable Diesel™ during the trial.

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 U.S. Borax continued to work with Rolls-Royce, Neste, U.S. EPA, and the state of California to fully transition its heavy-machinery fleet on site to renewable diesel at the end of May.

This transition includes all the heavy machinery on the property from haul trucks to loaders.

Renewable diesel is even used in blasting.

“Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from heavy-duty industries like mining has been a challenge, but our partnership demonstrates renewable diesel can keep the industry’s heavy equipment running with a smaller carbon footprint while delivering the same reliability and performance,” said Carrie Song, vice president of renewable road transportation Americas at Neste. “We hope our partnership will inspire other players in the industry to consider, adopt and endorse renewable diesel as a solution to fight climate change today.”

Neste’s expansion of its Singapore refinery and the joint venture with Marathon in Martinez, California, will increase Neste’s total production capacity of renewable products globally to 1.9 billion gallons by the beginning of next year.

This conversion to renewable diesel supports Rio Tinto’s global decarbonization objectives, which include a 50 percent reduction in scopes 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, and a commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

The company estimates carbon emissions from the use of diesel in its mobile fleet and rail accounted for 13 percent of its scopes 1 and 2 emissions in 2022.

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

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