Rio Tinto’s Kennecott first to win responsible production award

Rio Tinto’s (ASX, LON: RIO) Kennecott unit became on Tuesday the first producer to be awarded the Copper Mark distinction, the industry’s new independently assessed responsible production program.

The company said its Utah-based operation met over 30 criteria for responsible environmental, social and governance practices, set up by the voluntary program. The recognition, Rio said, is the only one targeting copper miners, smelters and refineries.

Originally developed by the International Copper Association with input from a broad range of stakeholders, the Copper Mark was launched in 2019. Since March this year it is an independent entity with a multi-stakeholder council.

“The Copper Mark allows our customers to purchase copper from operations that have been independently assessed as meeting the highest environmental, social and governance standards, responding to the growing expectations of consumers around the world for sustainable supply chains,” Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds chief executive Arnaud Soirat said in a statement.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the Copper Mark and seeing this new programme embraced widely along the value chain, to support the role copper continues to play as a key material in a sustainable future.”

“We welcome [Kennecott] as our first awarded site,” the Copper Mark’s executive director, Michèle Brülhart said.

Two-year process

To be able to carry the Copper Mark seal of approval, copper producers are required to begin a two-year process to meet the established criteria. They also undergo a reassessment every three years to ensure they make continuous improvements, as part of a process to support the United Nations’ SDGs. 

Brülhart said the covid-19 crisis has hampered the adoption of the Copper Mark, but the organization is working to support small-scale miners through a training program designed to help them understand the process and requirements to obtain certification. 

The voluntary program adds to similar initiatives, such as the London Metal Exchange’s push for increased transparency within the mining industry. 

ICA’s members include most of the world’s biggest miners, such as Chile’s Codelco, BHP, Glencore, Freeport-McMoRan, or Anglo American and some smelters and fabricators.

Brülhart said in June that those certified under Copper Mark would be qualified for the LME’s responsible sourcing requirements, a key driver for potential participants.

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