Rio Tinto: Air Pollution in Salt Lake City, USA

In 2011, the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment claimed that Rio Tinto’s fully owned subsidiary, Kennecott Utah Copper, located just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed around 30% of Salt Lake County’s overall pollution, making it the main reason for Salt Lake City’s consistent ranking among the top ten worst polluted cities in the U.S. in terms of acute spikes in air pollution. After several negotiation attempts, three organizations, Utah Moms for Clean Air, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, and WildEarth Guardians, filed a lawsuit against Rio Tinto/Kennecott claiming that Rio Tinto/Kennecott operations were responsible for a disproportionate amount of Utah’s air pollution and consistently violated pollution permits and EPA standards.[1]

In 2013 the American Lung Association gave Salt Lake City a grade of F for having unacceptably high levels of ozone and particle pollution. Their analysis claimed that at least one-third of Utah’s population remains vulnerable to pollution impacts. Youth and the elderly constitute slightly less than half of the population in Utah; 230,000 of which have asthma and nearly 494,000 suffer from cardiovascular disease.[2]

[1] EnviroNews Utah (2011): “Dr Brian Moench Announces a Joint Lawsuit Against Rio Tinto-Kennecott” (accessed 05.09.2013).

[2] Judy Fahys (2013): “Air pollution in Utah gets ‘F’ grades from American Lung Association”, The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 April (accessed 05.09.2013).

Case location
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
United States of America


Affected topics
  • Environmental and Climate protection
Directly and indirectly (through shareholding) involved companies Indirect investors through shareholding

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