Kennecott to get $918 billion from Rio Tinto to fuel EV demand for copper

Jun 30, 2023, 5:00 AM | Updated: Jul 6, 2023, 10:44 am

Kennecott copper mine...

The Kennecott Copper Mine near Herriman is pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Kennecott could be one of the main drivers of America's electrification process for a price. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Kennecott could be one of the main drivers of America’s electrification process — for a price.

In terms of dollars and cents, Rio Tinto is investing $918 million. The company could earn back $1 billion more than that from a new underground copper mine it’s digging. That’s because electric vehicles need four times the copper of non-electric cars.

Simon Letendre, head of Rio Tinto’s media relations for the Americas, tells KSL NewsRadio the real reason behind this massive investment.

“We feel strongly that we have an important role to play in providing the copper that the U.S. needs for the energy transition,” he says.

If current copper prices stay the same, the mine could churn out 250,000 tons of copper. This would be worth an extra billion dollars for the Australian company.

Along with the mine, the money will fund Kennecott’s biggest-ever rebuild of its smelter and its state-of-the-art system for isolating molybdenum. Molybdenum is essential for batteries and airbags.

Letendre adds that the mining vehicles will be powered by rechargeable batteries themselves.

Utah could earn much more money per year after this investment. However, the price is even more toxic chemicals from the biggest toxic waste producer in the state, according to the EPA’s toxic release inventory. Additionally, it’s only eight miles away from the outskirts of Salt Lake City’s metro area.

Utah’s economy gets $1.5 billion every year from Kennecott.

Devin Oldroyd contributed to this article.

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Kennecott to get $918 billion from Rio Tinto to fuel EV demand for copper