Rio Tinto

By: Jana Kettering Issue: Energy & The Environment Section: Jewel Of Collaboration

Green Building and Energy Efficient Leadership

Iowa The way every business is being conducted is transforming at a record rate. The impact of the worldwide stage means that local companies no longer have purely local issues and communities. That is one reason why a company-wide comprehensive approach to sustainable development is so important – what happens in one operation surely affects the ability to operate in other regions.

Rio Tinto, the world’s third largest mining company, based in London, England, is one such company that knows the value of a consistent approach regardless of geography. Rio Tinto operates in 55 countries, yet its sustainable development policy is the same for every operation.

The companies’ dedication is exhibited in Utah where Rio Tinto owns two very diverse businesses that operate in the same Salt Lake County community.

Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC) operates the Bingham Canyon Mine, which has been in operation since 1903. It is one of the few mines where the mining, concentrating, smelting and refining are done onsite. Mining may seem inconsistent with the concept of sustainable development given that it excavates non-renewable resources. However, mining supplies the minerals and metals essential to life as well as fueling significant economic prosperity in the communities in which it operates.

The fundamentals are simple: mineral exploration (find), active mining (mine) and then working to recover and reclaim former mining land (repurpose) for other uses. This cycle can be seen in such residential and commercial development uses at Kennecott Land’s (KL) Daybreak community. KL’s role in the cycle is to take former mining and buffer land and build sustainable communities.

Together, the two companies have created a long-term, thoughtful vision designed to ensure the continued operation of the mine for decades and then transition to other uses on land no longer supporting the mining operations. But that’s the end of the story. It’s the middle of the story that’s interesting.

So how does a mining and residential building company merge their vision? Through sustainable development. Sustainable development is a balanced framework to assure that decisions are made for the best possible social, environmental and economic outcomes. Together the companies work on land-use stewardship and meeting environmental targets. They conduct audits in the community assessing their impact and contributions. Their products are some of the most sustainably produced in the industry.

These companies have a mutual goal to design and construct buildings in a sustainable manner. By doing this, it makes a positive impact on the environment, economy and the people who work in these buildings. Since 2006, Rio Tinto’s Kennecott operations have produced five LEED® certified buildings, more than any other company, and they all stand within 10 miles of each other. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED® ) Green Building Rating System is the internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The LEED® ratings are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Certified.

Late last year, the company achieved a milestone when the Rio Tinto Regional Center was awarded LEED® Platinum Certification – the highest certification awarded from USGBC demonstrating energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. This designation is the first of its kind for Utah – and for Rio Tinto. LEED® Platinum Certification was achieved through environmentally friendly design and building standards. The project was reviewed for measures taken in categories that include sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and materials use. The LEED® rating system was used to design, build and achieve areas of efficiency without increasing costs, integrating these components into the already sustainable Daybreak community. Through the building’s construction process, energy and resources were saved by recycling more than 95 percent of all construction waste, and 22 percent of all materials used were from recycled sources.

In addition, 20 percent of materials purchased were from regional suppliers, reducing transportation costs and saving energy.

Prior to achieving the pinnacle award, four other buildings were built and certified. In 2006, KL collaborated with the Jordan School District on a joint school and community center. The Daybreak Community Center and School received a LEED® Silver designation. In 2007, KUC received LEED® Silver for its Bingham Canyon Mine Administration Building and certified status for the Bingham Canyon Mine Visitors Center. In 2008, the Rio Tinto Distribution Center was constructed to achieve LEED® Silver certification and is awaiting final review and certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The buildings are sustainably planned around future transit lines, storm water resources and anticipate the needs of the companies’ future operations to benefit employees, the environment, residents and the surrounding communities. These buildings bring years of planning and vision together to fit as a piece of the sustainable development puzzle.

The green building effort’s roots started with assuring that every home built at Daybreak was ENERGY STAR® rated. Now, Daybreak is the largest ENERGY STAR® rated community in the nation. Ten local builders build within the community and all must follow strict building, design, resource conservation and material selection standards. In fact, the community is now offering High Performance homes, which exceed ENERGY STAR® standards. There are more than 2,000 homes in Daybreak with another 18,000 planned. The market is clearly responding to sustainable homes and communities as now 1 in 8 homes in the Salt Lake County Market are sold in Daybreak.

This is one of many projects that the Kennecott companies have spearheaded to conserve precious resources like energy and water.KL has laid the foundation for a community where residents can feel proud of their commitment to the environment. However, in order for Daybreak to be a true sustainable community, it must work with the residents to find new and innovative ways to conserve natural resources like water and energy. During the last three years, sustainable development managers have been tracking water and energy consumption within Daybreak, and in 2009 will begin implementing programs to reduce water and energy consumption within the community. Data already indicates consumption is less than comparable neighborhoods.

Once such program is a new outdoor watering system that reduces the amount of water wasted on sidewalks, streets and areas that do not grow grass and vegetation while focusing water penetration where it matters most – the roots. The product is made of rubber-like material that is installed in a circular pattern. When installed, the magic straw product sticks up above the ground. The magic straw is cut on the first mowing and trickles water to the roots during subsequent waterings. In 2008, the product was installed at several parks and at residents’ homes as an experiment. Residents report that the system is working well.

KUC has more than 50 energy improvement projects aimed at conserving and generating power to assure a reliable power supply for operations. Some of these projects involve measuring and reducing consumption, replacing dated pumps and motors to improve efficiency, idling reduction programs and exploring geothermal, solar and wind resources on the company’s 93,000 acres. Two facilities are utilizing the generation capacity using combined cycle gas turbines to meet future electrical load increases.

All of this progress is on top of some existing contributions. The copper smelter is one of the most technologically advanced in the industry. It co-generates about 60 percent of the plant’s electrical requirement by recovering heat from the smelting and converting furnaces which is then used for co-generation. In addition, the smelter captures 99.95 percent of sulfur emissions making it the cleanest copper smelter in the world. The refinery is in the process of installing a highly-efficient 6.2-megawatt Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system. CHP has a generating capacity of about 84 percent, a great improvement over the 50 percent at traditional power plants.

KUC is actively working to reduce emissions per ton of product produced. In 2003, Rio Tinto set aggressive, five?year GHG emission intensity and energy efficiency targets for each business unit and every year since 2000 these numbers have been shared with the public through the Sustainable Development Reports (KL began reporting in 2006).

Both KL and KUC are founding members of the Climate Registry, a regional Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reporting system; and the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), which is seeking a practical federal cap-and-trade program. Rio Tinto favors a federal cap-and-trade program.

The goal of the voluntary Climate Registry is to provide an accurate, complete, consistent, transparent and verified set of GHG emissions data supported by a robust reporting and verification infrastructure. Both companies will begin reporting on 2008 greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. Rio Tinto recognizes that addressing the climate change challenge will require significant changes in global energy, transportation, land management, industrial and community systems and infrastructure.

In 2007, Rio Tinto joined the USCAP, an alliance of major businesses and environmental groups encouraging federal policy to reduce GHG emissions. USCAP organizations have come together to encourage the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. USCAP believes the strongest way to achieve emission reduction goals is a federal cap-and-trade program coupled with cost containment measures and complementary policies for technology research, development and deployment, clean coal technology deployment, lower carbon transportation technologies and systems, and improved energy efficiency in buildings, industry and appliances.

Rio Tinto is well-positioned for the future with its approach to green building and environmental protections. Respect for the environment is central to Rio Tinto’s approach to sustainable development. It is a core value that operating responsibly and demonstrating leadership in all aspects of exploration, mining, processing, transporting and marketing is a factor in leading environmental performance while creating and sustaining business value.

For more information on Rio Tinto, please contact Jana Kettering at or visit their website at