Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto has suspended operations at the Kennecott mine located near Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah in the US, following a 5.7-magnitude earthquake.

The company has reported limited damage to its operation or risk to the surrounding community. However, as a precaution, the company has temporarily halted all operations.

All employees have also been safely accounted for and evacuated from potential risk areas, the firm noted.

In compliance with standard procedures that had been agreed previously with the Utah Department of Transportation, Rio Tinto has temporarily closed State Road 201 freeway.

Mining complex being inspected following the earthquake

Currently, an inspection of the mining complex is being conducted with the local emergency services as well as Utah’s Department of Transportation.

Additionally, the inactive South (Magna) tailings storage facility is being monitored.

Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds CEO Arnaud Soirat said: “The safety of our employees and wider community is our first priority and having ensured that all our employees are safe and the operations are shut, we are now working with the local emergency services and regulators to ensure the asset is safe before resuming any operations.”

Last year, Rio Tinto announced its decision to continue production at its Kennecott mine until 2032, with an investment of $1.5bn over six years.

The investment will see the extension of strip waste rock mining and support additional infrastructure development in the second phase of the South Wall Pushback project at the mine.

Rio Tinto expects the investment at the mine to result in the production of close to one million tonne of refined copper between 2026 and 2032.

The Kennecott is a fully-integrated copper mining project involving the Bingham Canyon poly-metallic open-pit mine as well as associated processing facilities in Utah.