Kennecott contributes to global copper demand through recycling

South Jordan, Utah (June 25, 2018) – Rio Tinto Kennecott produces enough copper each year to meet nearly 15 percent of the US’ demand. But not all of the copper shipped to customers is coming from the ore in the ground at the Bingham Canyon Mine.

Since 2012, Kennecott has been adding recycled scrap metals, such as old copper wiring into the smelting process. In 2017 alone, Kennecott processed 2.8 million pounds of copper from recycled scrap metal, which is the equivalent to all the electrical copper wiring in 6,400 new homes.

Kennecott receives the scrap copper from scrap metal recycling companies throughout the United States. It is processed at the same smelting and refining facility as the copper that’s extracted from the Bingham Canyon Mine, melting it down to separate out any other metals and impurities. After subjecting 750-pound copper anode plates to an electric current for 10 days, the final result is two, 300-pound copper cathodes that are 99.99 percent pure copper.

Recycled scrap metal adds value to Kennecott’s business by improving the efficiency of the smelter. It also helps meet an increasing global demand for copper that is being driven by advances in technology and the green revolution.

Rio Tinto Kennecott’s Managing Director Marc Cameron said, “Recycling copper is a win-win for us and for the community. It allows us to meet an element of copper demand in a sustainable way and to continue contributing to our local and national economy.”

Copper use is growing in renewable energy infrastructure, electric vehicles, green building construction and water infrastructure. Advances in antimicrobial applications using copper in hospitals also leads to a safer health care environment.

Recycling is one way Kennecott is doing its part to meet the growing US demand for copper that is projected to remain strong for many years while ensuring that it prioritizes recycling as part of a circular economy that strives to limit waste through reuse.