Rio Tinto will reduce the annual carbon footprint associated with its Kennecott Utah Copper operation by as much as 65% through purchasing renewable energy certificates and permanently shutting down its coal power plant, the company said. Kennecott’s electricity needs of 1.5 million megawatt hours will be supplied by Rocky Mountain Power, primarily sourced from its Utah allocated portfolio, including wind power from Wyoming.

The change will reduce the annual carbon footprint associated with the operation by more than 1 million metric tons of CO2.

“Rio Tinto is committed to playing a part in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Rio Tinto Chief Executive J-S Jacques said. “This move will significantly reduce emissions associated with our operations in Kennecott and allow us to offer customers copper, gold and silver with a reduced carbon footprint.”

“The materials we produce, from infinitely recyclable aluminum and copper used in electrification to borates used in energy-efficient building materials and our higher-grade iron ore product, all play a part in this transition to a low-carbon economy. Rio Tinto will continue to work with partners and customers to develop new sustainable solutions.”

The move to support renewable power is the result of collaboration with the Utah government, local communities and Rocky Mountain Power.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said, “Rio Tinto’s decision to retire their power plant is a win-win for our community.  Their decision will simultaneously support Utah’s shift toward a low carbon economy and improve air quality in the Salt Lake Valley.”

This is the latest initiative to make Kennecott greener. Since 2005, it has been smelting scrap metal such as old copper wiring into its smelting process. In 2018, it processed more than 2.8 million pounds of copper from recycled scrap metal, enough to provide the electrical wiring in 6,400 new homes.