With copper prices soaring, Kennecott Land is re-evaluating its strategy for developing 40,000 acres on the Salt Lake County west bench — and which location could be the next planned community, like South Jordan's Daybreak.

Instead of pursuing a master plan for the whole area, the company now wants to proceed bit by bit. That way, Kennecott can determine which land is best used for mining or mining-related purposes, the company's original orientation, or developed for more homes, a more recent enterprise.

"Kennecott continues to identify and consider the west-bench land with the greatest possibility for development," said Jana Kettering, spokeswoman for Kennecott Land. "We are doing this with respect to the mining operations and exploration that continues in the Oquirrh Mountains."

Kennecott Utah Copper has been the the top-grossing mine in the Rio Tinto mining group for the past two years and recently announced that mining operations could go until 2036.

"Gold and copper are doing very well, and they made an economic decision to focus on their mining, which is very successful," Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said.

At the same time, Kennecott Land officials are examining which areas could become the next Daybreak, the company's planned community west of the Bangerter Highway at 11400 South.

Salt Lake County public works officials said the top two areas under consideration by Kennecott Land are the Little Valley and Soldier Flat regions. Kennecott Land officials declined to confirm a location.

The Little Valley region has been pegged as a possible location for a 3,150-acre ski resort.

Kettering said a decision on Kennecott Land future development plans will not be announced for at least two years, when both housing and mining studies are completed.

Corroon said the county is still working with Kennecott Land on how to plan for the future. The west bench — stretching below the Oquirrh Mountains from near the county's southern border with Utah County to Davis County on the north — is expected to go through a huge transformation in the next 75 years, with the potential of 500,000 people moving there.

He said he just hopes the company combines both short- and long-term planning when building future projects.

"If we look smaller it's easier to manage, but we still need to look at the smaller projects in the context of the entire development of the west bench," Corroon said.

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com; achoate@desnews.com