Earthquake forces Kennecott Copper to halt operations temporarily

March 19, 2020

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck the Utah’s Wasatch Front on March 18, causing a hazmat situation at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott copper refinery. The refinery halted operations and all personnel were evacuated from the site.

At a press conference hours after the earthquake shook the greater Salt Lake City area the Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Peterson said the leak was contained, and there was “no more risk to the citizens of Magna (UT).” Peterson said he believes roughly 8,200 gallons of hydrochloric acid leaked from a 12,000-gallon container sometime during the earthquake.

ABC 4 News in Utah reported that following the earthquake a chemical plume was released at the refinery and moved toward the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake County emergency officials said.

At the request of Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah National Guard was deployed to assist the Unified Fire Authority in monitoring the situation.
Rio Tinto Kennecott confirmed all personnel and contractors were safe and accounted for. “The health and safety of our people and communities is our top priority,” company representatives said in a statement.

Kennecott did not give a timeframe for when it would begin operating again, but representatives said operations would start-up once they’re “confident it is safe.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson announced an emergency declaration Wednesday afternoon due to the quake and related incidents.

Photo: Aerial view of Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Mine - an open-pit copper mine. Shutterstock.

 

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