Rio Tinto Kennecott announces project to improve stability in event of earthquake

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MAGNA, Utah - Rio Tinto Kennecott announced Friday a pilot project aimed at improving the stability and safety of their tailings property just north of SR 201.

Managers say it’s in response to recent reports about increased probability of earthquakes in Utah.

The company plans to install over 100 wells on the hillside south of the impoundment lot. Tailings and Water Services manager Paula Doughty said the wells will pump about 700 gallons per minute from the ground. The drier slope will hopefully stay where it is during a major earthquake.

“Without the water, we won’t have the movement of the soils,” Doughty said. “It’s as clear as that.”

The earthquake report was released in April. In it, seismologists found a 43 percent chance of an earthquake magnitude 6.75 or greater hitting the Beehive State within the next 50 years. Doughty said they have earthquake mitigation measures already in place, but the new well project is in response to that new timeline.

“When you move that time frame up closer, that changes things,” Doughty said. “So, to us, that risk is not acceptable to us because it’s a time frame that we’re all working in now.”

In all, the project will cost close to $27 million. Doughty said they’ll start with just a few wells in the next several months, and monitor the progress.