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Herriman Journal

Kennecott goes green

Nov 01, 2022 07:45PM ● By Annabelle Larsen

By Annabelle Larsen | [email protected]

Kennecott Copper Mine has been an icon of Salt Lake County for over 100 years now, with its original opening in 1903. Kennecott has slowly, over time, become the world's largest open-pit mine; able to be seen from space. Starting off as a relatively small mine with simple mining carts and pickaxes, it has developed and become one of the United States largest distributors of not only copper, but several other minerals as well. Kennecott, being as large as it is, experiences inversion along with the rest of the valley. Going up into the mine you can see the pollution clouds from the inversion crawl over the Oquirrh mountains, go into the pit, and settle there, creating an interesting atmosphere and a lingering smell of smoke.

Living in Utah, we know the importance of air quality as well as the importance of minimizing emissions as much as possible, and Kennecott, as well as Rio Tinto, are absolutely aware of this concern. They have switched from fossil fuel-emitting forms of transportation and mining equipment, to electrical. The size of the equipment is quite a bit smaller now (but still very large and very cool to see). And Kennecott, being an open-pit mine for many, many years, will now be going underground. When asked about the switch from open-pit mining to underground mining, employees of Rio Tinto stated that it is more ecologically friendly,  they do not want to disturb the natural beauty of the Oquirrh Mountains any further.

            For the reopening of the Kennecott visitors center, which has been closed for several years now due to the Covid-19 virus as well as adjustments in the Kennecott form of mining, they pulled out all the stops. Nathan Foster, the general manager of underground operations at Rio Tinto, was the first to speak in a press release put on by Rio Tinto to celebrate the new changes happening at Kennecott Copper Mine. Foster stated that the change in machinery is needed to help prevent climate change and keep the air quality in Utah clean and clear. He also stated that copper is going to be very important in the years to come, with the large shift to many different forms of technology being readily available to the public. Foster also discussed the teaming-up of Rio Tinto and a company called Sandvik, an engineering group providing and creating products and solutions for mining and rock excavation, rock processing and metal cutting. Rio Tinto and Sandvic have teamed up to create a better mining experience.

After Foster,  Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson talked about the importance of modern-day mining, as well as the need for clean energy development in our county. She mentioned that Utah alone mines over 200 minerals that are distributed around the United States, and that Kennecott is a large employer of residents in Utah. She stated, "investments in mining are investments in Utah." 

Joe Thomas from the Utah Division of Air Quality also addressed the crowd. He really emphasized the importance of fixing the air quality in Utah. “We need to buckle down and really start to solve this problem,” Thomas said.

The visitor center is now open to the public and the mine itself has a lot to offer Utah, not only in its minerals, but in its concern for the quality of our air and for our planet.

 If you'd like more information on Kennecott Copper Mine and Rio Tinto, you can go to


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