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Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation (KUCC), a division of Rio Tinto Group, is a mining, smelting, and refining company. Its corporate headquarters are located in Magna, Utah, USA. Kennecott operates one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world in Bingham Canyon, Salt Lake County, Utah. The company was first formed as 1898 as the Boston Consolidated Mining Company. The company first used the name Kennecott in 1936. The current corporation was formed in 1989.

Contents

History

Bingham Canyon in 1942

The Kennecott Utah Copper Company had its start when Enos A. Wall realized the potential of copper deposits in Bingham Canyon, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah in 1887 and acquired claims to the land. Underground mining in the area was begun in 1890, and Daniel C. Jackling and Robert C. Gemmell, both engineers, examined Wall's properties and recommended open-pit mining. In 1898, Samuel Newhouse and Thomas Weir formed the Boston Consolidated Mining Company.

Jackling and Wall formed the Utah Copper Company in 1903, and the company immediately started a pilot mill at Copperton. With financing from Guggenheim Exploration, the first digging began in 1906. The same year, the Kennecott Mines Company was formed in Alaska, named after explorer and naturalist Robert Kennicott. A smelter was also started at Garfield by the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) to refine the Bingham ore.

In 1907, the Utah Copper mill in Magna started operation. Utah Copper and Boston Consolidated merged in 1910, and in 1915, Kennecott acquired 25% interest in the company. The Bingham and Garfield Railway opened in 1911 to transport the ore, replacing the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad's line. In 1936, Kennecott acquired all the assets of the Utah Copper Company.

During World War II, Bingham set new world records for copper mining and produced about 30% of the copper used by the Allies. Many women worked in the mines, mills, and smelters.

On September 9, 1949 three company officers were killed in an airplane bombing known as the Albert Guay Affair in Quebec: the retiring president E.T. Stannard; his designated successor, Arthur D. Storke; and R.J. Parker, a vice-president. Charles Cox, formerly head of Carnegie-Illinois Steel, was hired shortly after to fill the executive vacuum.

By 1961, Kennecott's copper mines included four large open pits in the Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, and one underground mine in Chile. As the mine in Utah expanded, it subsumed the land on which the town of Bingham was built, and the city ceased to exist in 1971.

In 1981, a world-wide fall in copper prices brought about the acquisition of Kennecott by Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO). Production was interrupted from 1985 to 1987. In the latter year, British Petroleum acquired SOHIO, and Kennecott became part of BP Minerals America. In 1989 Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) purchased mining assets from BP. Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation was formed by Rio Tinto in 1989 as a new mining company under the laws of the State of Utah.

Rio Tinto Group, one of the world's largest mining operations, comprises dual-listed companies Rio Tinto Limited (based in Melbourne) and Rio Tinto plc (based in London) Although each company trades separately, the two Rio Tintos operate as one business.

Environmental relations

Significant groundwater contamination exists in the aquifer downgradient of the Bingham Canyon mining operations. Approximately 80 square miles (210 km2) are impacted in the southwest portion of Salt Lake County. The acid core of this contamination plume will be the subject of an upcoming Federal CERCLA action in the Fall of 2006. The public may or may not be notified of an opportunity to comment on a proposed settlement of this CERCLA action through a 30-day comment period sponsored by the Federal Court in Salt Lake City. It is not clear how the public will be informed as to when the action is filed in the Federal Court. Information regarding this confidential negotiation between Rio Tinto-owned companies and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be available, but due to the confidential nature of the discussions among EPA, Department of Justice, and other agencies, very little public information is available at this time.

KUCC is considering possible alternatives that will keep the Bingham Canyon Mine open for at least another 50 years, however, the open pit operations are projected to extend to 2017.

Land development

Another Rio Tinto-owned company manages the non-mining land and water assets previously owned by KUCC, Kennecott Land Company, (KLC). KLC does not own any land, but manages land and water assets for Rio Tinto. These assets have been divested from KUCC to another Rio Tinto-owned company, OM Enterprises Company (OME) on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley in and near the Oquirrh Mountains. Approximately 74,000 acres (300 kmĀ²) of the OM Enterprises holdings are currently subject to a proposed master plan through Salt Lake County. The Rio Tinto West Bench (Daybreak) which is planned to contain 166,000 dwelling units, is a greater number of units than within City of San Francisco. Extensions of UTA TRAX are planned. OM Enterprises Company, as the owner of this valuable development parcel, will undoubtedly request public assistance for infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer, transportation and schools. These infrastructure demands will be a topic of present and future obligations of public funding, which may be controversial.

See also

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