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Rio Tinto partners with Department of Energy

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Dry Bulk,

Rio Tinto announced a new research initiative with the Critical Materials Institute, a US Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory, to assure the US fully leverages domestic mineral and metal resources required for global leadership in clean power manufacturing.

The partnership will focus on the efficient extraction of critical minerals from the copper smelting process across three core work streams:

Researching the improvement of potential recovery rates of critical minerals and metals from samples sourced from Rio Tinto’s operating Kennecott Copper Mine in Utah and Resolution Copper project currently under regulatory review and permitting in Arizona.

Exploring potential for increasing recovery rates of rare minerals and metals through tailings processing.

Examining process improvements that would facilitate the blending of processed electronic waste (‘e-waste’) with copper concentrates to materially increase the recovery of valuable metals such as gold, copper, silver, platinum, lithium and rare earths present in spent cellphones, computers and solar panels, subject to any necessary permitting requirements.

Nigel Steward, Managing Director Rio Tinto Copper and Diamonds Operations, commented: “Rio Tinto has been at the forefront of companies that recognise climate change as a risk to our business, but we also believe the transition to a clean power economy creates economic opportunity.” Steward also commented, “CMI’s focus on the materials required for the US to be a global leader in clean-tech manufacturing fits well with our operational expertise in mining and smelting. We know there is potential to recover more rare metals and minerals in our current smelting process; we just need to find ways to do it more efficiently and economically. We are excited to be working with CMI to find innovative solutions.”

Along with producing 20% of US copper demand, Kennecott’s smelting process also recovers by-products such as gold, silver and molybdenum.

The Resolution Copper Mine project has the potential to meet an additional 25% of US copper demand, and may be a source of other key metals such as molybdenum, scandium and rhenium.

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