Reclaiming Kennecott: $5 million a year, but Rio Tinto says it’s worth the price

It’s been three years since Rio Tinto Kennecott began a long-term reclamation project at the Bingham Canyon Mine, and flowers are already growing.

Four hundred acres and more than 350 million tons of dirt into the project, and Rio Tinto Kennecott Spokesman Kyle Bennett said the project is only 25 percent complete, but he’s happy with the results so far.

“We’re excited about the fact that we had a great plan,” Bennett said. "We had a great opportunity, and we’re taking advantage of it. It’s going to benefit our business, and it’s going to benefit our community as well.”

Not only improving the view from a barren hill to a more natural looking mountain, but Bennett said this reclamation project will help their business too.

“There’s a real business case to doing it because it improves our environmental performance, it reduces erosion, it improves our ability to capture storm water run-off, and it helps us manage dust, but, most importantly, it helps us meet the needs of the community,” Bennett said.

Kennecott's mine is one of the largest copper mines in the world and has been running for 115 years. Starting in 1903, Kennecott was the first open-cut mine created.

Reclamation plans have been on-going for the past 20 years at a cost of about $5 million per year. Bennett said they have already spent $150 million on this specific reclamation project, but the rich history and the copper used from the mine, he said, makes it worth the price.

Copper is used in cellphones, computers, electric cars and even in products used to reduce infections in hospitals.

“The metals that we use are in so many applications,“ Bennett said. “They are so critical to modern life, and that’s one of the things that makes us so proud to be able to do this work every day.”