Rio Tinto Kennecott: Innovative Copper Production for an Increasingly Wired World

While often overlooked, Copper is the workhorse metal of our electric world. Copper wiring keeps electricity flowing and that makes it essential to the technologies we rely upon and the infrastructure that keeps us connected.

Our growing demand for copper is being met both from mines and from increased recycling. In fact, in the U.S., nearly as much copper is recovered from recycled material as is produced from newly mined ore.

Rio Tinto Kennecott is a leader in bringing innovative approaches to copper production. Kennecott produces enough copper each year to meet nearly 15 percent of U.S. demand, including recycling efforts that compliment ore production at the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah.

Since 2012, Kennecott has added recycled scrap metals, such as old copper wiring into the smelting process. In 2017, Kennecott processed 2.8 million pounds of copper from recycled scrap metal, which is the equivalent to all the electrical copper wiring in 6,400 new homes. Increased copper production, from both recycling and mining, is critical to meeting the world’s growing copper demand.

Copper’s flexibility, conformity, thermal and electric conductivity, and resistance to corrosion make it an ideal industrial metal for power cables, trolley wire and switches in transit systems. Trolley wire is used as current-carrying contact wire, which supplies power to urban transit, railroad vehicles, mining equipment and industrial cranes. In fact, 75 percent of all copper is used in electrical wires.

Rio Tinto Kennecott is playing a key role in developing sustainable and innovative approaches to meeting the nation’s growing appetite for this essential metal.