Kennecott Utah Copper top earning mine in Rio Tinto Group

For the second year in a row, Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC), producer of about 13% of America’s copper needs, is once again the Rio Tinto mine with the highest net earnings. KUC demonstrated strong performance in 2007 with net earnings of $1.6 billion. KUC’s 2007 production of refined copper rose to 292,800 t, exceeding 2006 levels of 240,200, a 22% increase. Gold reached 523,000 oz in 2007, surpassing the previous record level of 488,000 oz set in 2002, a 7% increase. Silver reached 4,364,700 oz in 2007, surpassing the previous record of 4,151,700 oz set in 2006, a 5% increase.   “We have shown our ability to be a top contributor for Rio Tinto, and I believe we have the people and resources to maintain strong long-term production.” said Andrew Harding, President, Kennecott Utah Copper.  “I am proud of the KUC employees and our operation.”

Because it is a long life, low-cost operation, KUC continues to be one of Rio Tinto’s most profitable and productive assets.  KUC has one of the lowest cost profiles in the copper industry due to the presence of molybdenum, gold and silver in the orebody. These metals create significant value as co-products to copper. Additionally, at 105 years old, the Bingham Canyon mine continues to present future growth options. Potential open pit expansions and underground operations could extend the life of the Bingham Canyon Mine to 2036.  KUC is currently conducting a prefeasibility study to evaluate future growth options.

KUC has also identified a worldclass molybdenum deposit within the Bingham Canyon mine. Molybdenum has been a major contributor to KUC’s profitability in recent years and will continue to do so in the future. KUC invested $82 million on an improvement project in 2004 to expand and modernise the bulk flotation process at KUC’s Copperton Concentrator. During the bulk flotation process, copper, gold, silver and molybdenum are released from the ore and made into concentrate. By improving concentrate quality and enhancing the production process, KUC is able to bring forward refined copper production planned for 2010 into 2008 and 2009.  Additionally, KUC will improve copper, molybdenum, silver and gold recovery.  The bulk flotation modernisation will be completed during second quarter, 2008. 

KUC’s operations and personnel continue to be valuable resources for some of Rio Tinto’s future undeveloped copper resources. KUC’s extensive experience in employing best practice in workplace safety, environmental stewardship, community engagement and in its daily mining, concentrating, smelting and refining operations have been shared with Rio Tinto personnel involved in the future development of, Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, Resolution in Arizona, and La Granja in Peru.