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Major miner Rio Tinto is looking to invest more in its Kennecott operation near Salt Lake City, Utah, in a bid to strengthen its copper supply in the US.

To do so, Rio will increase production from underground mining at the site while also improving the health of key assets.

A total of $US498 million in funding has been approved to deliver the increase in production and is expected to commence in 2024.

Rio said the production will ramp up steadily over two years from 2024 in order to deliver 250,000 tonnes of additional mined copper over the next 10 years.

“We are investing to build a world class underground mine at Kennecott and strengthen our processing facilities, to meet the growing demand for copper in the United States, a key material for domestic manufacturing and the energy transition,” Rio Tinto Copper chief operating officer Clayton Walker said.

“This investment will position Kennecott to continue the strong contribution it has made as part of the Salt Lake Valley community for 120 years, injecting about $1.5 billion annually to the local Utah economy.”

Rio will also invest $300 million for a rebuild of the Kennecott smelter, the largest in the history of the site.

The investment is the latest in a series copper investments, signalling the growing importance of the resource.

Earlier this week, Glencore finalised the sale of its CSA copper mine in NSW to Metals Acquisition Corp (MAC) for $US1.1 billion ($1.64 billion), while Evolution Mining extended its Ernest Henry mine life to 2040.