MAGNA, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - When you think about sustainable businesses mining usually doesn't come to mind, but thanks to a new partnership with the Department of Energy, Rio Tinto Kennecott may soon make recycling a big part of their business.
Rio Tinto Kennecott's Bingham Canyon mine is one of the largest copper producers in the world, currently at more than 19 million tons. But Kennecott's ore contains more than just copper. Rio Tinto Kennecott's Smelter Technical Manager Ryan Walton explained, "We'll see gold, silver, lead, selenium. We can produce tellurium type of material that's in our products now."
There are even more rare earth minerals and metals that are currently just going to waste. "Most of that is ending up just going through our process and will end up in tailings or with the iron slag material that we put off," said Walton.
Rio Tinto Kennecott is now partnering with the Department of Energy to find ways to better extract those rare minerals and metals. "They're hard to find, they're hard to extract and the us is currently very dependent on imports from China," explained Interim Managing Director Colin Nexhip. "But they're used in everything from smart devices, through wind turbines or lithium in batteries."
And if they're in many of our devices how do we get them out? Kennecott has one of only three smelters in the United States, and with the U.S. Department of Energy's help the mining company hopes they can capture and recycle some of the electronic waste that's currently shipped abroad.
"That material now I know is collected. I can take it to a local store and put it in a bin and it goes off and is recycled somewhere else. It has to go to a facility and get melted down and recycled," said Walton. "There's no reason we couldn't pursue doing that here."
Recovering rare metals and minerals that are currently supplied by China and recycling those materials that are usually sent abroad could make Kennecott more sustainable and America more independent.
Kennecott is already doing some recycling. In the last two years the mining company started recycling copper. In just the last year they've already recycled more than 10,000 tons of copper.
For more information on the Rio Tinto Kennecott and Department of Energy partnership log on to: http://riotintokennecott.com/newsroom/news-releases/rio-tinto-partners-department-energy%E2%80%99s-critical-materials-institute-recovery
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