Rio Tinto has approved a $1.5 billion investment to continue production at its Kennecott copper operation in Utah, 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 1 million metric tons (mt) of refined copper between 2026 and 2032, according to the company. This will allow further exploration of the deposit.

This additional investment will commence in 2020. With this project, Rio Tinto has invested more than $5 billion in modernization, environmental stewardship and mine-life extension initiatives since it acquired Kennecott in 1989.

“Kennecott is uniquely positioned to meet strong demand in the United States and delivers almost 20% of the country’s copper production,” Chief Executive J-S Jacques said. “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.”

The first phase of the South Wall Pushback, which is expected to be complete in 2021, will extend production to 2026.