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Australia Set to Fund Second Clean-Energy Project at Remote Mine

An Australian government agency expects to announce a second agreement within three months to fund a renewable energy project at a remote mining operation before the government moves to wind it up.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which this week provided money to a Rio Tinto Group plant, had planned to allocate as much as A$300 million ($277 million) to projects that provide solar and wind power to mines and surrounding communities, Chief Executive Officer Ivor Frischknecht said today by phone. It’s unclear how much of that money will be awarded after the government earlier this month said it plans to scrap the agency to save A$1.3 billion.

“It may end up substantially less than that,” he said.

The agency, which said yesterday that it provided A$11.3 million to fund a solar project at Rio’s Weipa bauxite mine in Queensland state, is seeking to increase the use of renewable energy in diesel-powered regions of Australia. First Solar Inc. and Ingenero Pty agreed to provide solar power to the mine.

It’s likely that the second funding agreement will be completed before the government is able to move to repeal the act in the Senate, Frischknecht said. “I’d be surprised if we didn’t announce another one within three months,” he said.

The agency has received 72 applications seeking funding for remote clean energy plans, including 30 mining projects, Frischknecht said. Those are mostly solar-diesel plans, he said.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the biggest mining company, has “been engaged in the process,” he said, declining to elaborate.

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