United States

Kennecott (Bingham Canyon) Mine

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Categories

Overview

Mine TypeOpen Pit & Underground
StatusActive
Commodities
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Molybdenum
Mining Method
  • Truck & Shovel / Loader
  • Longhole open stoping
  • Sub-level stoping
Backfill type
  • Cemented (undefined) backfill
Production Start1903
Mine Life2032
SnapshotKennecott mine is a world-class, integrated copper mining operation. Kennecott has been mining and processing minerals from the rich ore body of the Bingham Canyon Mine, and today is one of the top producing mines in the world.

The operation includes Copperton concentrator, Garfield smelter, refinery, and precious metals plant and tailings storage facilities.

In 2023 5MW solar plant pilot project at Kennecott Copper was constructed.

Kennecott’s fleet of and all heavy machinery began to transition to renewable diesel in the first quarter of 2024, along with consumption from the concentrator, smelter, and refinery.

Tellurium is one of the rarest elements on Earth, usually found in small, sparse rock deposits, making it difficult to mine at scale. At Kennecott copper operations Rio Tinto has discovered a way to extract tellurium from an unlikely source – slime waste material.

Owners

SourceSource
CompanyInterestOwnership
Rio Tinto plc 100 % Indirect
The Bingham Canyon Mine is wholly owned by Kennecott Utah Copper LLC., subsidiary of Rio Tinto.

Contractors

ContractorContractDescriptionRef. DateSource
Cementation USA Inc. Mine Development Cementation USA secured the Underground Characterisation Development and Infrastructure project in Utah for Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper. The value is circa US$70 million. This initial scope includes lateral development and associated infrastructure works and the award positions Cementation USA well for the potential significant scope growth on this project. Aug 3, 2021
Rocky Mountain Power Power supply Supply contract with Rocky Mountain Power. Dec 31, 2023

Deposit type

  • Skarn
  • Porphyry

Summary:

The Bingham Canyon deposit is a classic porphyry copper deposit containing economic values of copper, molybdenum, gold, silver, and historic lead and zinc production. Peripheral copper-gold skarns, lead-zinc fissures, and disseminated gold deposits are also associated with this copper porphyry system.

Porphyry dikes, faults, and quartz veins are steeply dipping and have two dominant orientations; north-northeast– and northwest-striking. Dikes have a north-northeast strike but they thicken and develop northwest-trending apophyses and host high-grade copper-gold zones at intersections with northwest-faults, indicating that magmatic-hydrothermal fluids were focused by these structural intersections.

Vein truncation relationships coupled with abrupt changes in copper-gold grades, sulfide ratios, and potassic alteration intensity at porphyry intrusive contacts indicate that the mass of introduced copper and gold decreased significantly during successive porphyry intrusive-hydrothermal cycles, presumably due to depletion of metals and volatiles in the underlying magma chamber.

The Lower Commercial Skarn (LCS) deposit is located in the Bingham mining district southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. The Bingham mining district is dominated by the Bingham Canyon copper-molybdenum-gold porphyry system, which consists of the Eocene monzonite-quartz monzonite Bingham Stock and deformed siliciclastic and carbonate country rock of the Paleozoic Bingham Mine Formation. The LCS deposit is hosted in mineralized skarn of the Lower Commercial Limestone (LCLS) unit of the Lower Bingham Mine Formation. This unit is proximal to the Bingham Canyon porphyry system and has been altered to copper-gold hosting calc silicate skarn through prograde metasomatism with localized retrograde massive sulphide and clay. This unit has been variably folded and faulted prior to mineralization, resulting in fold thickening and repetition of the units across faults.

The LCS deposit lies in the footwall of the southwest dipping Midas thrust fault, between the older northeast striking and steeply dipping oblique transverse Verona and Smelter faults. This structural block between the Verona and Smelter faults, and below the Midas, is referred to as the Middle Block. The Middle Block is bounded to the south by the Bingham Canyon porphyry monzonite, open to the north, and cut by late latite porphyry dikes on a northeast trend. Palaeozoic country rock within the Middle Block is folded in an asymmetric anticline, slightly overturned to the east, with a gentle plunge to the north. The LCS deposit is hosted in the gently dipping upper limb of the LCLS.

The LCS Mineral Resource is contained within a roughly tabular zone dipping gently north, approximately 40 to 100 m thick, extending 275 m along strike, and 450 m down dip.

The LCS Mineral Resource is located beneath the Bingham Canyon Mine open pit, at approximately the 3700 level (~1,128 m AMSL), immediately adjacent to the active underground drainage gallery workings.

Reserves at December 31, 2023

CategoryOre TypeTonnage CommodityGradeRecoverable Metal
Proven & Probable In-Situ (OP) 829 Mt Copper 0.37 % 2.681 Mt
Proven & Probable In-Situ (UG) 5 Mt Copper 2.22 % 0.096 Mt
Proven & Probable Total 834 Mt Copper 0.38 % 2.777 Mt
Proven & Probable In-Situ (OP) 829 Mt Gold 0.18 g/t 3.257 M oz
Proven & Probable In-Situ (UG) 5 Mt Gold 1.39 g/t 0.146 M oz
Proven & Probable Total 834 Mt Gold 0.19 g/t 3.403 M oz
Proven & Probable In-Situ (OP) 829 Mt Silver 1.98 g/t 37.686 M oz
Proven & Probable In-Situ (UG) 5 Mt Silver 15.52 g/t 1.596 M oz
Proven & Probable Total 834 Mt Silver 2.06 g/t 39.281 M oz
Proven & Probable In-Situ (OP) 829 Mt Molybdenum 0.033 % 0.176 Mt
Proven & Probable In-Situ (UG) 5 Mt Molybdenum 0.022 % 0.001 Mt
Proven & Probable Total 834 Mt Molybdenum 0.033 % 0.176 Mt
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (OP) 59 Mt Copper 0.44 %
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (UG) 12 Mt Copper 2.75 %
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (OP) 59 Mt Gold 0.15 g/t
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (UG) 12 Mt Gold 1.17 g/t
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (OP) 59 Mt Silver 2.54 g/t
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (UG) 12 Mt Silver 60.03 g/t
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (OP) 59 Mt Molybdenum 0.018 %
Measured & Indicated In-Situ (UG) 12 Mt Molybdenum 0.011 %
Inferred In-Situ (OP) 12 Mt Copper 0.26 %
Inferred In-Situ (UG) 14 Mt Copper 2.51 %
Inferred In-Situ (OP) 12 Mt Gold 0.2 g/t
Inferred In-Situ (UG) 14 Mt Gold 0.91 g/t
Inferred In-Situ (OP) 12 Mt Silver 2.56 g/t
Inferred In-Situ (UG) 14 Mt Silver 15.41 g/t
Inferred In-Situ (OP) 12 Mt Molybdenum 0.005 %
Inferred In-Situ (UG) 14 Mt Molybdenum 0.008 %
Total Resource In-Situ (OP) 72 Mt Copper 0.41 %
Total Resource In-Situ (UG) 26 Mt Copper 2.62 %
Total Resource In-Situ (OP) 72 Mt Gold 0.16 g/t
Total Resource In-Situ (UG) 26 Mt Gold 1.03 g/t
Total Resource In-Situ (OP) 72 Mt Silver 2.55 g/t
Total Resource In-Situ (UG) 26 Mt Silver 36.18 g/t
Total Resource In-Situ (OP) 72 Mt Molybdenum 0.016 %
Total Resource In-Situ (UG) 26 Mt Molybdenum 0.009 %

Mining Methods

  • Truck & Shovel / Loader
  • Longhole open stoping
  • Sub-level stoping

Summary:

Kennecott is a fully integrated mining operation just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.

Mining operations at Kennecott is deployed via conventional open pit method and is carried out a sequence of drilling, blasting, loading, hauling, crushing and conveying 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

On average, 200 holes 55 feet deep are drilled in a typical day. Each hole is packed with 1,200 pounds of special blasting agents. Explosives are carried out twice a day.

Loading to 320 tons haulage trucks performed by electric shovels (the largest electric shovel has a 56-cubic-yard dipper).

In September 2022, was approved a $55 million investment in development capital to start underground mining and expand production at the Kennecott copper operations.

The selected underground mining method is bottom up, sub-level, long hole open stoping, using a primary secondary sequence with cemented backfill. This is a well-known and proven mining method and can be applied effectively within this deposit given the recommended geotechnical limitations.

Stope dimensions are set a 22.9 m high, 15.2 m wide, and a variable length between 15.2 to 9.1 m. Permanent development needed to access the deposit will be 5.9 m high by 5.5 m wide, reducing to 4.9 m high by 5.5 m wide. Stope ground support has been accounted for to aid in stability, this is planned for the backs and sides of the upper drift, as well as the brow from which mucking will occur.

Minimum mining widths have been established and applied to the mine design which underpins the estimate. These are based on the dimensions of the existing mechanized mining fleet, and the expected additional equipment needed to operate the mine (Including allowance for BEV equipment size).

Kennecott’s fleet of 90 haul trucks and all heavy machinery began to transition to renewable diesel in the first quarter of 2024, along with consumption from the concentrator, smelter, and refinery.

Comminution

Crushers and Mills

TypeModelSizePowerQuantity
Gyratory crusher 1

Summary:

At the In-pit gyratory crusher, approximately 150,000 tons of ore per day reduces to pieces about 10 inches in diameter. Then crushed ore is transported by a five-mile conveyor system: three miles through a tunnel in the mountain and two miles above ground to the Copperton Concentrator.

Processing

  • Crush & Screen plant
  • Dry Screening
  • Smelting
  • Flotation

Summary:

The operation includes Copperton concentrator, Garfield smelter, refinery, and precious metals plant and tailings storage facilities.

The crushed ore is turned into a slurry and transported to flotation cells. Additional reagents were added to produce a bubbly froth. Ore particles containing most of the valuable minerals adhere to the bubbles, which float over the sides of the flotation cells. Then the material is collected and filtered.

Production includes a froth flotation process to produce copper and molybdenum concentrates.

The concentrate, which contains about 26 percent copper and by-products such as gold and silver, moves through a pipeline to Kennecott’s smelter, located about 17 miles to the north, for further processing.

The next stage, smelting, is a process of heating and smelting the copper concentrates to cause a chemical reaction, which removes the copper from other elements in the ore. At the smelter, we produce large 750-pound anodes and transport them by rail to the Refinery. The copper is 99 percent pure at this stage.

The smelter at Kennecott captures 99.9 percent of the sulfur in the feed, making it one of the cleanest in the world. The smelter also recovers heat from the furnaces, which generates 60 percent of the facility’s total electricity.

At the refining stage, the copper is in anode form. We subject 750-pound copper anode plates to an electric current for ten days and turn them into two 300-pound copper cathodes. This further separates the copper from other metals – the result is copper that is 99.99 percent pure.

The last step in the production process is to stamp each bar with Kennecott's brand, the lot number, the weight and the fineness of the metal — that is, the percentage of gold or silver in the bar.

Pipelines and Water Supply

TypeMaterialDiameterLengthDescription
Slurry pipeline 17 miles Concentrate pipeline to the smelter.

Summary:

Kennecott will reduce average annual imported water per ton of ore milled by 5% over the 2014-18 baseline of 393 gal/ton (1,487L/ton) at the Copperton Concentrator by 2023.

With the exception of 2019, annual concentrator water intensity has remained above the 2014-2018 target baseline. Required changes to the concentrator process during 2020 resulted in increased water usage compared to the initial target baseline. Kennecott’s water usage has trended down since the implementation of these changes. Kennecott’s commitment to improve water efficiency through the concentrator successfully reduced intensity in 2022 and 2023 to approximately 10% lower than the period peak recorded in 2021.

Production

CommodityProductUnits202320222021202020192018201720162015
Copper Cathode kt 10914814385185195126156115
Gold Payable metal koz 74114176118219198204135179
Silver Payable metal koz 1,4071,9502,6711,3632,8532,8652,3781,8151,843
Molybdenum Metal in concentrate kt 1.83.37.620115.852.87.6

Operational metrics

Metrics202320222021202020192018
Annual production capacity 335,000 t of copper cathode335,000 t of copper cathode335,000 t of copper cathode335,000 t of copper cathode335,000 t of copper cathode335,000 t of copper cathode

Production Costs

Commodity production costs have not been reported.

Financials

Units2023202220212020201920182017
Capital expenditures M USD 735  563  411  618   444   318   249  
Revenue M USD 1,430  1,923  2,528  1,529   1,879   1,862   1,352  
Earnings M USD -328  -9  513  149   397   293   78  
EBITDA M USD 178  857  1,142  588   843   785   539  

Heavy Mobile Equipment

Ref. Date: December 31, 2023

SourceSource
HME TypeSizeQuantity
Truck (haul) 320 t 90

Personnel

Mine Management

Job TitleNamePhoneEmailProfileRef. Date
Maintenance Superintendent Thomas Dormenval LinkedIn May 6, 2024
Manager Underground Technology Ferrin Prince LinkedIn May 6, 2024
Managing Director Nathan Foster +1-406-539-2563 nate.foster@riotinto.com LinkedIn May 6, 2024
Mine Manager Scott Farrell LinkedIn May 6, 2024
Mine Operations Manager Kieran McRae LinkedIn May 6, 2024
Mine Scheduling and Projects Manager Mark Smith LinkedIn May 6, 2024

EmployeesYear
2,411 2023
2,176 2022
2,051 2021
2,171 2020
2,066 2019
1,993 2018
1,734 2017
1,638 2016
1,793 2015

Aerial view:

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