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Rio Tinto to Invest $1.5B in Copper Mine

December 3, 2019
Workers next to a dozer in Rio Tinto Kennecott mine.
Workers stand next to a Caterpillar dozer in the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine.

Rio Tinto will invest $1.5 billion in its copper mine in Kennecott, Utah, to be spent over the next six years, beginning in 2020. It will allow operations in the mine to continue to 2032.

The money will be spent to extend the operation’s strip waste rock mining and for additional infrastructure development in the mine’s South Wall Pushback, the company said. The company expects to deliver about 1 million tonnes of copper.

The first phase of the South Wall Pushback, which is expected to be complete in 2021, extended production from 2019 to 2026. Three hundred million dollars remains to be spent of a $0.9 billion investment.

In addition to copper, Kennecott is one of the largest producers of gold, silver, platinum group metals and molybdenum in North America, and a potential source of critical minerals such as rhenium and tellurium.

“This is an attractive, high-value, and low-risk investment that will ensure Kennecott produces copper and other critical materials to at least 2032,” said chief executive J-S Jacques in a prepared statement. “The outlook for copper is attractive, with strong growth in demand driven by its use in electric vehicles and renewable power technologies, and declining grades and closures at existing mines impacting supply.

“Kennecott is uniquely positioned to meet strong demand in the United States and delivers almost 20 percent of the country’s copper production. North American manufacturers have relied on high-quality products from Kennecott for the past century and this investment means it will continue to be a source of essential materials into the next decade.”

Earlier this year, Rio Tinto announced that it would cut the carbon footprint associated with operations at Kennecott by permanently closing its coal fired power plant and sourcing renewable energy certificates. It has partnered with Caterpillar on autonomous equipment in Australia.

Source: Rio Tinto

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