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Rio Tinto has approved a $1.5 billion investment (100 per cent basis) to continue production at its Kennecott copper operation in the United States.

The investment over the next six years will extend operations at Kennecott to 2032.

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 ore body and deliver close to one million tonnes of refined copper between 2026 and 2032.

It is a world class project that will generate attractive returns and allow further exploration of the deposit and options for mine life extension.

This additional investment will commence in 2020 and is included in our group capital expenditure guidance of $7.0 billion in 2020 and $6.5 billion in both 2021 and 2022 as development capital.

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With this project, Rio Tinto has invested more than $5.0 billion in modernisation, environmental stewardship and mine-life extension initiatives since it acquired Kennecott in 1989.

Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques says:

“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.

“Kennecott is uniquely positioned to meet strong demand in the United States and delivers almost 20 per cent 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 Tinto 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 adds:

“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.”