At Rio Tinto Kennecott, we are committed to exercising stewardship over the land on which we operate. We are dedicated to minimizing the impact we have on the land we mine and to return impacted land to its natural state where possible.
We own and manage about 95,000 acres of land. While less than half of that area is disturbed by actual mining, we take our stewardship over this land and its resources seriously. We have initiated a variety of land management and beautification programs to protect and balance the delicate interaction between important environmental factors.
Land reclamation means returning land that has been disturbed by mining activities to a meaningful, post-mining land use, such as wildlife habitat, residential use or agricultural use.
We have and continue to implement many land management activities that include land reclamation, deer and elk management, grazing practices and vegetation control. Some examples include:
- Implementing a noxious weed management program in coordination with regional stakeholders.
- Implementing a wildland fire prevention program.
- Reclaiming lands impacted by historic mining operations.
We were active in converting acreage once dominated by over-grazed lands, salt evaporation ponds and illegal dumps into a 3,670-acre shorebird and waterfowl reserve along the south shore called the Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve (ISSR), which is part of the south shore of Great Salt Lake (GSL).
The ISSR was created under a mitigation plan developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to offset the loss of 1,000 acres impacted when Kennecott expanded its tailings impoundment in 1996. Bird use has increased from 40 to more than 150 species. An estimated 120,000 shorebirds and waterfowl use the ISSR each year.
Part of our land management goals is to improve habitat on our property by addressing invasive weeds. We have established a comprehensive weed management plan to enhance habitats and to control the spread of noxious weeds affecting our property.
Aside from herbicides we use “biocontrol” methods such as beetles, weevils, and grazing that selectively eat the plants.
We are also active in watershed stabilization. Working with some key community partners in 2009, we planted about 300 willows to stabilize a creek bank, and to provide habitat for nesting and migratory birds, as well as to help keep downstream habitat waters clear.
We lease at no cost approximately 1,000 acres to various local government and non-profit organizations. These leases assist a number of charitable organizations, provide space for research and education opportunities, and offer public parks and recreation areas.