Rio Tinto pulls trigger on $US1.5bn Kennecott investment

Rio Tinto has approved a $US1.5 billion ($2.2 billion) investment to continue production at the Kennecott copper operation in the United States.

The investment, which will extend operations at Kennecott to 2032, will extend strip waste rock mining and support infrastructure development in the second phase of the South Wall Pushbank project. It will allow mining to continue into a new area of the ore body.

Rio Tinto expects the development to deliver close to one million tonnes of refined copper between 2026 and 2032.

This approval has brought Rio Tinto’s investment in the modernisation, environmental stewardship and mine-life extension at Kennecott to more than $US5 billion since acquiring the project in 1989.

“This is an attractive, high value and low risk investment that will ensure Kennecott produces copper and other critical materials to at least 2032,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said.

“The outlook for copper is attractive, with strong growth in demand driven by its use in electrical 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 per cent of the country’s copper production, according to Jacques.

North American manufacturers have also relied on Kennecott products for the past century, he added.

“This investment means it will continue to be a source of essential materials into the next decade,” Jacques said.

Rio Tinto announced earlier this year that it was committed to cutting the carbon footprint associated with the Kennecott operations.

The company plans to permanently close its coal fired power plant and source renewable energy certificates.

“Kennecott will be supplying customers across North America with products that are not only produced in the region but responsibly mined with a significantly reduced carbon footprint,” Jacques said.

The latest investment will commence in 2020 and go over the next six years.

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