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Rio Tinto To Invest $55 Mln To Start Underground Mining At Kennecott Copper Operations In US

Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Plc (RTNTF,RIO,RIO.L, RTPPF) Tuesday said it has approved a $55 million investment in development capital to start underground mining and expand production at its Kennecott copper operations in Utah, United States.

The company noted that the underground mining will initially focus on an area known as the Lower Commercial Skarn or LCS, which is expected to deliver a total of around 30kt of additional high quality mined copper through the period to 2027 alongside open cut operations.

The first ore is expected to be produced in early 2023, with full production in the second half of the year. It will be processed through the existing facilities at Kennecott.

Rio Tinto said underground battery electric vehicles are currently being trialed at Kennecott. The company is also using a battery electric haul truck and loader supplied by Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions to evaluate performance and suitability as part of underground development work.

The battery electric vehicles would improve employee health and safety, increase productivity and reduce carbon emissions from future underground mining fleets.

Rio Tinto Copper chief executive Bold Baatar said, "This investment will allow us to quickly bring additional volumes of high quality copper to the market.... We are progressing a range of options for a significant resource that is yet to be developed at Kennecott, which could extend our supply of copper and other critical materials needed for electric vehicles and renewable power technologies."

The company is extending existing undergound infrastructure to enable early access to the next underground resource and undertake characterisation studies.

A Feasibility Study to inform decisions on the next phase of underground production is expected to be completed in 2023.

Feasibility studies are also being progressed to extend open pit mining at Kennecott beyond 2032. 80.94 pence, down 8.54 percent.

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