Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah copper mine switches to renewable energy

2nd May 2019 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH ( – Mining major Rio Tinto will be permanently shutting the coal power plant at its Kennecott Utah copper project, switching the operation to renewable energy and reducing its annual carbon footprint at the mine by nearly 65%.

The company announced on Thursday that Kennecott’s electricity needs would be paired with 1.5-million MWh of renewable energy certificates supplied by Rocky Mountain Power, primarily sourced from its Utah allocated portfolio including wind power from Wyoming.

The change will reduce the annual carbon footprint associated with the operation by over one-million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“Rio Tinto is committed to playing a part in the transition to a low-carbon economy. This move will significantly reduce emissions associated with our operations in Kennecott and allow us to offer customers copper, gold and silver with a reduced carbon footprint,” said Rio CEO Jean-Sebastian Jacques.

“The materials we produce, from infinitely recyclable aluminium and copper used in electrification to borates used in energy-efficient building materials and our higher grade iron-ore product, all play a part in this transition to a low-carbon economy. Rio will continue to work with partners and customers to develop new sustainable solutions.”

The move to support renewable power is the result of collaboration with the Utah government, local communities and Rocky Mountain Power to improve air quality and deliver an alternative power solution.

The switch to renewable energy is the latest initiative to make Kennecott greener, with Rio pointing out that since 2005, the operation has been smelting scrap metal such as old copper wiring into its smelting process. In 2018, it processed more than 2.8-million pounds of copper from recycled scrap metal, enough to provide the electrical wiring in 6 400 new homes.

Meanwhile, Rio this week also threw its support behind the World Bank’s launch of its new climate-smart mining facility, which is aimed at building partnerships to manage the role mining will play in supplying the minerals needed for clean energy technologies to help address climate change.

The initiative will bring together governments, private sector companies, and academic and research institutions to promote sustainable mining practices in resource-rich developing countries, with initial support from Rio, Anglo American and the German government.

Climate-smart mining has been developed in concert with the broader United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals to ensure that the benefits from the transition to low-carbon technologies are shared.

It will innovate and deploy financing to scale up technical assistance and support for projects such as the integration of renewable energy into mining operations, the strategic use of geological data for a better understanding of “strategic mineral” endowments, forest-smart mining and recycling of minerals.

“The transition to clean energy solutions presents both a significant opportunity and responsibility for the mining industry, as it provides the materials that make these technologies possible,” Jacques said.

“We want to be part of the solution on climate change and the best solutions will come from innovative partnerships across competitors, governments and institutions. Our collaboration with the World Bank and many others is aimed at making a real difference by promoting sustainable practices across our industry.

“We look forward to supporting the climate-smart mining facility by contributing not just funding but also expertise as a leader in sustainable mining practices.”