Rio Tinto Kennecott Becomes a Hub for Innovation

Rio Tinto Kennecott, located 35 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of the world’s most innovative mining operations. It comprises the Bingham Canyon Mine, Copperton Concentrator, Garfield Smelter, refinery and power plant. The business produces copper, molybdenum, gold, silver and sulphuric acid. It is an open pit mine and supplies 13 percent of copper in America.

Kennecott has several new innovative ways to increase safety and efficiency. One of these is the use of drones, which has become integral to the operation. This technology allows Kennecott to provide real-time 3-D mapping, equipment inspections and surveillance of mine walls.

Kennecott also recently completed a three-year pilot program to improve the payload capacity of haul trucks in the Bingham Canyon Mine. The mine has 88 haul trucks, and 84 of those trucks have an increased payload capacity of 314 tonnes. Their operations engineers are working with two mining equipment, technology and services companies on designing a lighter truck bed that can reduce wear and tear on the truck while increasing its payload capacity. Six trucks are participating in this pilot program and have so far achieved a 6 percent improvement in payload capacity.

Kennecott has also been the trial grounds for underground communications technologies that have then been implemented at Rio Tinto’s impressive Oyu Tolgoi operation in Mongolia.

“We are working with a range of original equipment manufacturers to develop fit-for-purpose mining equipment for deep block caves, ranging from excavation to ground support installation,” said Craig Stegman, vice president of operational and technical support for Rio Tinto’s copper and diamonds division. “There seems to be an almost infinite range of solutions and I am very impressed by the strategic thinking that is taking place to find the right pathway.”

Rio Tinto has even created an online virtual tour, so anyone can experience Kennecott’s operations in 3-D, with a tour guide.