Rio Tinto’s Kennecott copper operation in the US is set to keep operating to 2032 following a $1.5 billion investment.
The investment will further extend strip waste rock mining and support additional infrastructure development in the second phase of the South Wall Pushback project, to allow mining to continue into a new area of the orebody and deliver close to 1 Mt of refined copper between 2026 and 2032, according to the mine.
The first phase of the South Wall Pushback, which is expected to be complete in 2021, extended production from 2019 to 2026. Some $300 million remains to be spent of a $900 million investment.
“It is a world-class project that will generate attractive returns and allow further exploration of the deposit and options for mine life extension,” Rio said.
This additional investment will commence in 2020 and is included in the company’s group capital expenditure guidance of $7 billion in 2020, and $6.5 billion in both 2021 and 2022 as development capital, it said.
With this project, Rio says it has invested more than $5 billion in modernisation, environmental stewardship and mine-life extension initiatives since it acquired Kennecott in 1989.
Rio Tinto Chief Executive, J-S Jacques, said: “This is an attractive, high value and low risk investment that will ensure Kennecott produces copper and other critical materials to at least 2032.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
Earlier this year, Rio 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.
Jacques added: “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.”
Kennecott’s operations include the Bingham Canyon mine, Copperton concentrator, Garfield smelter, refinery, power plant and associated facilities.