Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper operations were impacted by a 5.7-magnitude earthquake near Magna, Utah, on Wednesday, March 18. The company said all employees have been safely accounted for and evacuated from the potential risk areas. At this point, it said limited damage to the operation has been identified with little risk to the surrounding community, including a hydrochloric acid release from the refinery. A detailed inspection of the complex is currently being conducted, in conjunction with the local emergency services and Utah Department of Transportation.

As a precaution, the company said all operations have been temporarily idled and, in line with standard procedures pre-agreed with the Utah Department of Transportation, State Road 201 has been temporarily closed while the inactive South (Magna) tailings storage facility is inspected. This is an inactive historic tailings storage facility that is stable and being actively monitored and managed, under a plan reviewed and endorsed by a panel of independent geotechnical experts and Utah’s dam regulatory authorities.

Rio Tinto Copper and Diamonds CEO Arnaud Soirat said, “The safety of our employees and wider community is our first priority and having ensured that all our employees are safe and the operations are shut, we are now working with the local emergency services and regulators to ensure the asset is safe before resuming any operations.”