$1.5 billion investment to help continue production at Kennecott copper until 2032

Production at Kennecott Copper Mine on southwest side of the Salt Lake Valley will continue for at least another decade. (Photo: KUTV)

Production at Kennecott Copper Mine on the southwest side of the Salt Lake Valley will continue for at least another decade.

Rio Tinto invested $1.5 billion, which will extend operations until 2032, according to a press release.

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

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“Kennecott is uniquely positioned to meet strong demand in the United States and delivers almost 20% 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.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a prepared statement, "This significant investment will continue to fuel economic growth and employment for many years. I am grateful to Rio Tinto for continuing to invest in Utah. They have shown commitment to business in our state, and we are grateful to them for being upstanding corporate citizens in our community."

Kennecott is one of the largest producers of gold, silver, copper and molybdenum in North America. Production began at the site more than 100 years ago in 1906.

Approximately 2,700,000 tons of refined copper, 3,300,000 ounces of gold, 35,180,000 ounces of silver and 200 million pounds of molybdenum have been produced since 2008, according to a press release.

Since 1989, Rio Tinto has invested more than $5 billion into Kennecott's "modernization, environmental stewardship and mine-life extension initiatives."

The current billion dollar investment will extend strip waste rock mining and support additional infrastructure development in the second phase of the South Wall Pushback project, which will allow mining to grow into a new area and deliver close to one million tons of refined cooper between 2026 and 2032.

Jacques said “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.”

Earlier this year, Rio Tinto announced it would close its coal fired power plant in order to cut down on carbon footprint associated with operations at Kennecott. It also would seek sourcing renewable energy certificates.