Saturday, 30 May 2020
Rio Tinto's Kennecott Mine: A Hub for Innovation
Austmine Limited
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Rio Tinto's Kennecott Mine: A Hub for Innovation

Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Mine, found just outside Salt Lake City in Utah, USA, is one of the world’s most exciting mining operations. It comprises the Bingham Canyon Mine, Copperton Concentrator, Garfield Smelter, refinery and power plant, and produces copper, molybdenum, gold, silver and sulphuric acid. It is an open pit mine and one of the biggest suppliers of copper in the USA.

However, what Kennecott is really known for is their embracing of innovation, as is seen at many of Rio Tinto’s mines around the world.

Kennecott is using drones in ways that have become integral to operations, including providing real-time 3-D mapping, equipment inspections and surveillance of mine walls.

Kennecott is also partway through a three-year pilot program to improve the payload capacity of haul trucks in the Bingham Canyon Mine. The mine has 87 haul trucks, each of which have a carry capacity of 290 tonnes. Their operations engineers are working with two METS companies on engineering a lighter truck bed that can both reduce wear and tear on the truck, whilst increasing its payload capacity. Six trucks are participating in this pilot program and have so far achieved a 6% 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. Craig Stegman, Vice President Operational and Technical Support for Rio Tinto’s Copper and Diamonds division, spoke at Austmine 2017 on a number of initiatives that the Kennecott mine has undertaken in the last couple of years, and about those they are now looking to.

“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,” Craig said. “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.”

He spoke about the lessons learned from the 2013 Manefay Landslides, and what Rio Tinto has implemented as a result, including remote mining, 9 layers of pit monitoring, ITH Borehole drilling, mine dispatch and the future pit cutbacks to come. When talking more widely about the most important innovation trends in the mining industry, Craig focused on data analytics, automation, an options-rich environment and the multiple sources of innovation. Austmine members who are interested in reading or listening to Craig’s full presentation, can access both the PDF and audio file on our member self-service portal.

 Kennecott have even created an online virtual tour, so anyone can experience Kennecott’s operations in 3-D, with a tour guide! However, if you’d rather see it in real life, you should sign up to join Austmine on our USA mission from 16 – 20 October 2017, where we will be visiting the mine, along with Newmont Mining’s Long Canyon mine. See more information on our website.

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