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Rio Tinto shakes up Kennecott leadership in slide aftermath

Published August 1, 2013 4:43 pm

Bingham Canyon • Fallout from April 10 landslide continues.
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Even the top management at Kennecott Utah Copper won't be escaping the fallout from the massive April 10 landslide at the Bingham Canyon Mine unscathed.

Rio Tinto, the worldwide mining conglomerate that owns Kennecott, is restructuring top management at its Utah mining operations to cut costs in the aftermath of the massive landslide that saw about 165 million tons of rock crash down into the open pit mine below.

The London-based company said the management changes, which will see Kennecott's President and Chief Executive Kelly Sanders stepping down to fill a yet-to-be specified role with Rio Tinto, will create efficiencies and position its Utah mining operation for long-term success as the business recovers from the April disaster.

"There were a couple of triggers [for the change in management]," said Kyle Bennett, a Kennecott spokesman. "One was the landslide and our need to continue to reduce costs. The other was the ongoing desire of Rio Tinto to streamline and reduce costs throughout its businesses, which is also something taking place throughout the mining industry."

Sanders, who took over as Kennecott's president and CEO in 2009 after having served as the company's chief operating officer, will step away from that role on Sept. 1.

"Leading this organization has been a tremendous privilege," Sanders said in a statement issued by Rio Tinto. "I'm proud of what this organization has achieved, and I would like to thank the employees and senior leadership team for making my time here so fulfilling."

Kennecott's current COO, Stephane Leblanc, will assume Sanders' duties while continuing to fill the position that he now holds.

"When this is done we will have a smaller management team" at Kennecott — four executives instead of the seven, Bennett said.

Other changes will see Lynn Cardey-Yates stepping down as Kennecott's vice president of sustainable development on Sept. 1. He will remain at Kennecott until December, at which time he will leave the company.

Pat Keenan, Kennecott's chief financial officer, will be moving into a capital development role within Rio Tinto after Sept. 1. And Nicky Firth, vice president of human resources at Kennecott, also will move into an alternate role within Rio Tinto.

As a result of the April 10 landslide, Kennecott initially projected that production at its Utah facilities this year will be down 50 percent from 2012. In May, the company laid off about 100 of its salaried employees but was able to avoid widespread cuts to its hourly workforce due to an early retirement offer.

Bennett said management now anticipates that production will be "a little bit above" 50 percent of last year's production.

Kennecott is the second largest copper producer in the country. In 2012 it produced 179,317 tons of copper, 279,200 ounces of gold, 2.4 million ounces of silver and 20 million pounds of molybdenum, a shiny, silvery metal that is used to strengthen steel.


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