Rio Tinto's Bingham Canyon pollution 'similar to smoking 20 cigarettes a day': US lawsuit

Doctors, environmentalists and a number of citizens have filed a lawsuit at a Utah district court against Rio Tinto subsidiary Kennecott, claiming that the Bingham Canyon copper mine near Salt Lake City has broken the US Clean Air Act for five years.

Among the claimants is the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, who warns that some of the mine's dust can get into the bloodstream, "causing respiratory system damage, adverse pulmonary effects and potentially even premature death," the Guardian reports.

Other doctors involved in the lawsuit say that the mine's pollution can have effects on people similar to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Visible from outer space, the Bingham Canyon Mine is the deepest open-pit mine in the world today. First discovered by Mormon pioneers in the mid-1800s, its over 1.2 km deep, 4 km wide and covers 7.7 km².  Despite having begun production in 1904, the mine is under expansion and is expected to produce until 2030.

Bingham Canyon produced 99% of the metals used in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic medals.

Rio Tinto denies all claims that Bingham Canyon has been emitting particle matter in excess of US environmental laws.

Bingham Canyon aerial