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Rio Tinto may eventually process critical minerals, CEO says

30th September 2021

By: Bloomberg

  

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Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining companies, wants to start processing minerals in North America that are considered key to US national security.

The company is currently figuring out ways to extract up to ten so-called critical minerals from copper waste at its mining facility in Utah, CEO Jakob Stausholm said in a phone interview. The minerals are used in everything from missiles to wind turbines, yet China is the world’s dominant processor of most of the materials seen as strategically important to US national defence.

Stausholm said that in talks with the White House, the company shares a “very common agenda” with the Biden administration’s aim to secure domestic manufacturing capabilities.

“There are a lot of byproducts coming from copper production,” Stausholm said. “It’s an area that’s had very little focus in the US and if we put some focus on it, I do see some opportunities.”

Stausholm’s comments come amid a trip through the US that includes visits to Rio’s copper assets in Utah and Arizona. The executive said he sat down with tribes in Arizona about its Resolution copper mine, which is currently being held up from development amid increased scrutiny from indigenous groups.

Asked whether he made any progress with the Native American tribes, Stausholm said he was not engaging in “deal making” with Native American tribes, instead focusing on talks and diplomacy.

The comments also come after Rio suspended sales of copper from its Kennecott smelter after the plant shut down last week following a release of molten metal. Stausholm said the company is still assessing the damage and has no timeline for when they’ll be able to restart sales.

Edited by Bloomberg

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