Rio Tinto’s Kennecott operations rattled by earthquake

The Kennecott mine. Image: Copyright © 2018 Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has suspended the Kennecott copper operations near Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake hit close to the town of Magna.

The company evacuated its employees from the potential risk areas and they have all been safely accounted for.

Rio Tinto employs more than 1900 people at Kennecott.

According to media reports, several aftershocks hit within 20 minutes of the earthquake, including a big, 4.6-magnitude aftershock.

Rio Tinto suffered from limited damage to the operation and risk to the surrounding community.

It also continued performing a detailed inspection of the complex in conjunction with the local emergency services and Utah Department of Transportation.

“The safety of our employees and wider community is our first priority and having ensured that all our employees are safe and the operations are shut,” Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds chief executive Arnaud Soirat said.

“We are now working with the local emergency services and regulators to ensure the asset is safe before resuming any operations.”

Rio Tinto closed the State Road 201 freeway temporarily while an inspection of the inactive South (Magna) tailings storage facility (TSF) was conducted.

According to Rio Tinto, the historic TSF was stable and being actively monitored and managed under a plan reviewed by a panel of independent geotechnical experts and Utah’s dam regulatory authorities.