Tag Archives: Utah

Rio Tinto completes 5 MW solar power plant build at Kennecott

Rio Tinto has completed construction on a new 5 MW solar power plant at its Kennecott copper operation in Utah, USA, with commissioning expected in the coming weeks.

The 12,800 solar panel power plant will enable Kennecott to reduce its operational emissions by 3,000 t/y of carbon dioxide equivalent, Rio Tinto says. It will also serve as a pilot project with the goal of expanding Kennecott’s solar energy supply in the future.

Shifting to sustainable energy solutions is a priority for Kennecott, the company says. The mine closed down its coal-fired power plant in 2019, moving to electricity paired with renewable energy certificates. This resulted in a 65% reduction in its carbon footprint and the elimination of over 1 Mt/y of carbon dioxide output.

Rio Tinto Kennecott Managing Director, Nate Foster, said: “Rio Tinto Kennecott has a key role to play in supporting the energy transition. We supply US companies with the copper and tellurium they need to produce solar panels, wind turbines, and conductors. We also continue to take steps to further decarbonise our business, from our battery-electric vehicle trial to our renewable diesel trial and now to our very own solar plant.”

The location of the 30-acre (12.1-ha) solar array was carefully selected to minimise visual and environmental impacts, Rio Tinto says. It is adjacent to other existing industrial operations, away from residential and commercial zones, with earthen berms from the railway providing a visual barrier to most of the installation.

Last year, Rio Tinto started producing tellurium as a by-product of mining and refining copper at Kennecott, becoming one of only two US producers of this critical mineral. Both copper and tellurium are vital components of photovoltaic solar panels. The tellurium from Kennecott is refined by 5N Plus, a producer of specialty semiconductors and performance materials, before being supplied primarily to First Solar for use in its solar panels.

Rio Tinto aims to reduce its global Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Rio-BinghamCanyon

Fortune Minerals, Rio Tinto join forces to improve cobalt and bismuth recoveries

Fortune Minerals and Rio Tinto have agreed on a collaboration to develop technology that will improve recovery of the critical minerals cobalt and bismuth.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the companies, testing will be done at Rio Tinto Kennecott’s integrated copper mining and smelting operations in Utah and at Fortune’s planned Alberta Refinery.

The partnership aims to maximise the value of critical mineral supply chain investments and increase Fortune’s planned cobalt and bismuth refining operations to process co-product streams of the minerals recovered from the Kennecott smelter, Fortune said.

In 2020, the Canadian and U.S. governments signed a Joint Action Plan on Critical Mineral Collaboration to enable more North American production of the critical minerals needed in new technologies. Cobalt and bismuth are both included in this list and are used for sustainable energy resources. Fortune and Rio Tinto are pleased to establish this partnership and work together to expand North American supply chains, they said.

Robin Goad, President and CEO of Fortune Minerals, said: “Working with Rio Tinto to recover metals from their co-product streams is part of our corporate strategy to expand production of critical minerals, and we are excited to be working with one of the world’s premier mining companies on the first of these opportunities. This collaboration could provide a solution to support greater production of the metals needed for the energy transition and growing sustainable economy.”

Rio Tinto Kennecott Managing Director, Nate Foster, commented: “We are committed to find better ways to provide the materials the world needs to grow and decarbonise. We are enthusiastic about this partnership with Fortune Minerals as we continue looking at our waste streams to develop new, sustainable sources of critical minerals here in North America.”

For 120 years, Kennecott, in Utah, has been mining and processing copper and other minerals including gold, silver, molybdenum and tellurium from the rich ore body of the Bingham Canyon mine (pictured).

Fortune is developing its 100%-owned, vertically integrated NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project in Canada. This asset is comprised of a planned mine, mill and concentrator in the Northwest Territories and a related hydrometallurgical refinery in Alberta where concentrates from the mine would be processed.

Fortune and Rio Tinto are working together to assess different process methods and technology options to recover the bismuth and cobalt contained in Kennecott’s smelter waste streams. This includes assessing the effectiveness of blending Rio Tinto’s intermediate products with NICO project concentrates and conducting batch recovery tests using Fortune’s refinery flow sheets.

Weir Minerals opens new Salt Lake City distribution centre

Weir Minerals says it has opened a new distribution centre in Salt Lake City, Utah, providing proximity to customers in the heart of US mining country.

The new facility boasts over 10,000 high-density pallet storage locations, 16 active docks with full safety features and four assembly bays. It will allow the company to expedite deliveries and significantly reduce lead times for customer deliveries, Weir Minerals says.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Jon Stanton, Weir CEO (pictured in the centre), said: “We’re confident that this centre will serve as a hub of productivity and enable us to reach new heights in terms of speed, accuracy, and customer satisfaction.”

Weir Minerals already has a Linatex facility in Salt Lake City, while its ESCO division also has a branch there.

Bingham Canyon to become first Rio Tinto site equipped with Cat MineStar Fleet

The Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah, USA, has selected the Cat® MineStar™ Fleet management system as part of its plans to optimise open pit operations at the mine, owned by Rio Tinto, Caterpillar says.

Caterpillar Inc and Wheeler Machinery recently completed installation of a Cat MineStar Fleet management system at the mine, which, rather than upgrading the mine’s previous fleet management system, chose to deploy MineStar Fleet. This switch has, Caterpillar says, optimised the mine site’s equipment tracking, production recording, material management and truck assignment, and it has further expanded the technology relationship between Caterpillar and Rio Tinto.

Ryan Howell, Mining Technology Commercial Product Manager at Caterpillar, said: “For 15 years, Rio Tinto has used MineStar Terrain and has expanded its MineStar capabilities in recent years at locations like Gudai Darri and Marandoo, autonomous mine sites in Western Australia. Bingham Canyon Mine is the first MineStar Fleet site in Rio Tinto history, and this extends the company’s application of MineStar capabilities. Our team is proud of this MineStar Fleet system installation. We are honoured to be there to support the mine site’s fleet management needs.”

Joshua Wood, Principal Advisor, Surface Mining Centre of Excellence at Rio Tinto, added: “The close collaboration between the Rio Tinto Group team, Caterpillar, dealer and Kennecott ensured a successful deployment at Kennecott and their desire to be the flagship for future MineStar sites.”

Even though it wasn’t the easiest route for the mine, the cost-benefit analysis showed significant benefits long term using MineStar Fleet, including seamless integration with MineStar Terrain currently used by the mine, Caterpillar said.

Mike Gray, General Manager for Wheeler Machinery, said: “A true partnership with the supplier, dealer and customer allows for large-scale technology projects like this to be completed successfully with minimal impact to production.”

An incremental approach was devised to minimise the system installation loss-time impact on mining operations for bringing nearly 100 trucks, plus more than 40 supporting dozers, shovels and drills, online with MineStar Fleet. Caterpillar and Wheeler worked together to provide a quick turn-around time with best-in-class implementation, Caterpillar said.

Bryce Olson, Mine Monitoring and Control Superintendent at the Kennecott Bingham Canyon Mine, said: “We have been impressed with the partnership, and we share the same vision and have the correct team to get us there. We flipped the switch, and we haven’t gone backwards. We immediately started using MineStar Fleet’s open assignment, load-haul-dump and auto fuel advanced features.”

Cat MineStar Fleet automatically records and tracks data up and down a mine’s value chain, providing insights that help miners identify what is working and fix what is not to meet production targets, Caterpillar says. Fleet allows miners to view the entire operation at a glance on a computer and gain insights into key cost drivers – such as fuel, tyres, service parts and idle time – and improve haul fleet production and shovel utilisation.

Rio Tinto funds initial underground development at Kennecott copper ops

Rio Tinto has approved a $55 million investment in development capital to start underground mining and expand production at its Kennecott copper operations in Utah, USA.

Underground mining will initially focus on an area known as the Lower Commercial Skarn (LCS), which will deliver a total of around 30,000 t of additional high-quality mined copper through the period to 2027 alongside open-pit operations, Rio says. The first ore is expected to be produced in early 2023, with full production in the second half of the year. It will be processed through the existing facilities at Kennecott, one of only two operating copper smelters in the US.

Kennecott holds the potential for significant and attractive underground development. The LCS is the first step towards this, with a mineral resource of 7.5 Mt at 1.9% Cu, 0.84 g/t Au, 11.26 g/t Ag and 0.015% Mo identified based on drilling and a probable reserve of 1.7 Mt at 1.9% Cu, 0.71 g/t Au, 10.07 g/t Ag and 0.044% Mo.

Underground battery-electric vehicles are currently being trialled at Kennecott to improve employee health and safety, increase productivity and reduce carbon emissions from future underground mining fleets. A battery-electric haul truck and loader supplied by Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions – a Sandvik LH518B 18 t battery-electric LHD and a Sandvik Z50 50 t battery-electric haul truck – are being used to evaluate performance and suitability as part of underground development work.

Rio Tinto Copper Chief Executive, Bold Baatar, said: “This investment will allow us to quickly bring additional volumes of high-quality copper to the market and build our knowledge and capabilities as we evaluate larger scale underground mining at Kennecott. We are progressing a range of options for a significant resource that is yet to be developed at Kennecott, which could extend our supply of copper and other critical materials needed for electric vehicles and renewable power technologies.

“Trialling underground battery-electric vehicles is an exciting step in our work to create a safer workplace for our employees, increase the productivity of the mine and reduce emissions from our operations. We look forward to seeing their potential for deployment.”

Existing undergound infrastructure is currently being extended to enable early access to the next underground resource and undertake characterisation studies. A feasibility study to inform decisions on the next phase of underground production is expected to be completed in 2023. This will be one of several potential stages currently being investigated.

Feasibility studies are also being progressed to extend open-pit mining at Kennecott beyond 2032.

Rio Tinto produces first tellurium from Kennecott copper operation

Rio Tinto has started producing tellurium at its Kennecott copper operation in Utah, becoming one of only two US producers of the critical mineral used in advanced thin film photovoltaic solar panels.

The tellurium will be refined in North America by 5N Plus, a global producer of specialty semiconductors and performance materials, under a commercial agreement between 5N Plus and Rio Tinto. The refined tellurium will primarily be supplied to First Solar, the only U-based company among the world’s 10 largest solar manufacturers, under an existing supply contract between 5N Plus and First Solar. 5N Plus will also use the tellurium to manufacture ultra-high purity semiconductor materials at its facility in St. George, Utah, to serve the security and medical imaging markets.

Approximately 20 tons (18 t) of tellurium will be produced per year through a new $2.9 million circuit built at the Kennecott refinery. This valuable material is recovered from by-product streams generated during the copper refining process, reducing the amount of waste that needs to be treated and discarded as mine tailings.

Tellurium is listed as a critical mineral by the US Government due to its importance to the economy and energy security.

Rio Tinto Copper Chief Operating Officer, Clayton Walker, said: “We are proud to deliver a new domestic supply of tellurium to support the manufacturing of solar panels and other critical equipment here in the United States. Approximately 90% of the world’s tellurium resource is contained in copper ore and no other metal has more critical mineral by-products than copper. The Kennecott team is constantly looking for ways to extract new critical minerals to meet emerging demand for the clean energy transition.”

5N Plus President and Chief Executive Officer, Gervais Jacques, said: “As a leading global supplier of specialty semiconductor compounds for applications in renewable energy, security and medical imaging, 5N Plus is proud of this partnership with Rio Tinto, and to further leverage its expertise in the transformation of mining and metallurgical by-products into high purity value-added critical minerals such as tellurium, here in North America.”

First Solar Chief Manufacturing Operations Officer, Mike Koralewski, added: “Rio Tinto’s decision to invest in tellurium is a win for responsibly-produced, American solar. We’re thrilled that tellurium from Kennecott will play a role in powering our country’s transition to a sustainable energy future.”

Tellurium is one of 10 metals and products recovered from ore extracted at Kennecott, which produces nearly 15% of US copper with the country’s lowest carbon footprint, Rio Tinto says.

Murray & Roberts’ Cementation Americas business wins Rio and BHP contracts

Murray & Roberts’ Cementation Americas business has confirmed two new mining contracts with Rio Tinto and BHP.

Cementation USA secured the Underground Characterisation Development and Infrastructure project in Utah for Rio Tinto’s Kennecott copper operations (open pit, pictured). The value of this agreement is circa-$70 million, with the initial scope including lateral development and associated infrastructure works.

Rio, only last month, approved a $108 million investment in underground development to enable early orebody access and undertake orebody characterisation studies for underground mining at the Kennecott copper operations.

The contract award positions Cementation USA well for the potential significant scope growth on this project, Murray & Roberts said.

Cementation Canada Inc has secured the completion of Phase 1 of the Jansen potash project in the province of Saskatchewan for BHP. This scope includes the post liner excavation, steel and equipping of the shaft.

The value of the complete project award, subject to a sanction decision for the project, is around $170 million. Cementation Canada has, in the interim, received a works order to proceed with the first work package to the value of $12 million.

BHP said last month that it expected to make a decision on whether to move forward with Jansen, which is expected to produce 4.4 Mt/y of potash in its first phase, in the next two months.

Cementation Canada will apply to also deliver the following phases of the Jansen project, Murray & Roberts noted.

Murray & Roberts said: “During the past year, mining companies in the Americas have experienced prolonged COVID-19 impact, creating short-term order book pressure for engineering and contracting companies. These awards are evidence of new mining investments returning to the region.

“The forecast improvement in capital investment in the mining industry is encouraging and, considering the platform’s leading global position and growing near term project pipeline, there is good potential for accelerated growth for the group’s mining platform.”

Weir ESCO takes advantage of expansion opportunities in Utah, Quebec

Weir ESCO’s growth trajectory has continued in 2021, with the ground engaging tool (GET) major capitalising on two fast-moving expansion opportunities in western USA and eastern Canada in the March quarter.

The acquisitions represent exciting new platforms for sales and brand recognition growth in the two regions, according to the Weir subsidiary.

With one of ESCO’s largest dealers, based in the Western US, set to retire last year, Weir ESCO decided to fill the void.

The company explained: “Without the dealer to represent us, our future with a significant mining operation in the region – a mine that generates approximately 11% of annual copper production in the US – was at stake.”

The mine’s cable shovels are outfitted exclusively with ESCO GET and multiple other pieces of equipment, including hydraulic machines and front-end loaders, are also fitted with ESCO products.

The company’s teams jumped into action to secure the business, with the new Salt Lake City branch becoming operational in early January. It got right to work establishing a direct service relationship with the key customer, Rio Tinto Kennecott, and expanding market share with other mining and infrastructure companies customers in the territory, the company said.

Up north in Canada, the launch of Weir ESCO’s Quebec branch resulted from seizing a timely, high-stakes opportunity, as well, the company said.

Quebec is home to Canada’s largest operating open-pit gold mine, Canadian Malartic. The mine employs more than 2,000 workers around the clock and many pieces of equipment are outfitted with ESCO GET, according to the company.

“When changes in the local distribution channel occurred, Weir ESCO began considering how to parlay the situation into market expansion opportunities,” it said.

Weir Minerals, a division of the Weir parent company, already had an established presence in the area, presenting additional synergy opportunities.

By the end of January, Weir ESCO’s new Quebec team was on board and sharing office space with the Minerals branch (office pictured).

As in Salt Lake City, the Quebec branch will focus on growth through a direct service approach with customers, it said.

Pete Huget, Managing Director for North America, said: “This is an energising time for us as we move with more speed and agility to take advantage of market opportunities to grow the business. We are looking forward to capitalising on these opportunities to service our own customers directly. No one can service a customer like an ESCO employee.”

Rio Tinto Kennecott to recover tellurium from copper smelting

Rio Tinto is to construct a new plant that will recover tellurium, a critical mineral used in solar panels, from copper refining at its Kennecott mine near Salt Lake City, Utah.

The company is investing $2.9 million to set up the plant, which will recover tellurium as a by-product of copper smelting, extracting a valuable mineral from waste streams. The plant will have a capacity to produce around 20 t/y of tellurium, the miner said.

Rio expects to begin production of tellurium in the December quarter of 2021, creating a new North American supply chain for the critical mineral.

Tellurium is an essential component of cadmium telluride, a semiconductor used to manufacture thin film photovoltaic solar panels. Thin films made of this compound can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, according to the miner. Tellurium can also be used as an additive to steel and copper to improve machinability, making these metals easier to cut. It can also be added to lead to increase resistance to sulphuric acid, vibration and fatigue.

Rio Tinto Kennecott Managing Director, Gaby Poirier, said: “The minerals and metals we produce are essential to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Adding tellurium to our product portfolio provides customers in North America with a secure and reliable source of tellurium produced at the highest environmental and labour standards with renewable energy. Rio Tinto is committed to using innovation to reduce waste in our production process and extract as much value as possible from the material that we mine and process.”

Utah Governor, Spencer Cox, said: “With abundant natural resources, Utah is ideally positioned to help supply the critical minerals essential to maintain American manufacturing competitiveness. Rio Tinto’s smelter at Kennecott is one of only two that is capable of producing copper and other critical minerals. The new tellurium plant is another valuable contribution to critical mineral independence and energy security in the US”

Along with producing almost 20% of US copper, Kennecott’s smelting process also recovers gold, silver, lead carbonate, platinum, palladium and selenium, while molybdenum is recovered from the Copperton concentrator. In total, nine products are currently recovered from the ore extracted at Kennecott.

Rio Tinto is a partner with the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) and works closely with CMI experts to discover further ways to economically recover critical mineral by-products such as rhenium, tellurium and lithium. The company is also investing in new facilities to extract battery-grade lithium from waste rock at its Boron, California mine site and high quality scandium oxide from waste streams at its metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

Rio pushes back the life of Kennecott copper operation with $1.5 billion investment

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.