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Rio Tinto Kennecott, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, has completed construction of a new five-megawatt solar power plant at its Kennecott copper mine.

The Bingham Canyon mine, more commonly known as the Kennecott copper mine, is located just outside Salt Lake City in Utah. It has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any copper producer in the US.

The mine’s new solar panel power plant is expected to be commissioned in the upcoming weeks, and it will serve as a pilot project intended to expand Kennecott’s solar energy supply in the future.

It is projected to reduce Kennecott’s operational emissions by 3000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum.

Rio Tinto Kennecott managing director Nate Foster said that shifting to sustainable energy solutions is a priority for the project.

“Rio Tinto Kennecott has a key role to play in supporting the energy transition. We supply US companies with the copper and tellurium they need to produce solar panels, wind turbines, and conductors,” he said.

“We also continue to take steps to further decarbonise our business, from our battery electric vehicle trial to our renewable diesel trial and now to our very own solar plant.”

In 2019, the Kennecott copper mine closed its coal-fired power plant and moved towards using renewable electricity.

Rio Tinto said the change resulted in a 65 per cent reduction in its carbon footprint and the elimination of over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide output per year.

Rio Tinto announced its plans to further invest in the Kennecott operation to strengthen its copper supply in the US in June. It also reclaimed 740 additional acres of land at the mine in late September.