Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine

Back in May (yep, I'm just a wee bit behind on posting some photos!), we took a trip to the Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine. We had seen it advertised on a flyer at the hotel, and it looked like something a little different to do. So we loaded up in the van and headed a bit south of Salt Lake City. After paying our $5 vehicle entrance fee, we proceeded up a windy road marked with numerous signs warning us to stay on the road.

We followed the signs for the visitor center, and upon arriving, found this amazing sight in front of us.

This copper mine has produced more copper than any other mine in history--more than 18.1 million tons. It's about 2 3/4 miles across at the top and 3/4 of a mile deep. Mining started in Bingham Canyon in 1863, with engineers soon after recommending a revolutionary way of mining the ore, using a process called open-pit mining and then refining the ore on an industrial scale.

The large scale processing proved necessary because this low-grade ore only contains 10.6 pounds of copper per ton of ore! About 200 holes, each 55-feet deep, are drilled each day and packed with 1,200 pounds of special blasting agents. Every day about 150,000 tons of ore and 330,000 tons of overburden are mined.

To move all this ore and overburden, the mine has 70 giant haulage trucks. You can see the size of them above compared to the crew-cab pickup that is also traveling on the road. Each haulage truck carries 255 to 320 tons of material in each trip at an average speed of 13 mph.

The visitor center had a nice movie and well-thought-out displays. The kids especially liked the models of the mining equipment. I really liked looking at the historic photos and how much things have changed. We also learned about different uses for copper, such as in plumbing, computers, and telephones. It turns out that each person in the U.S. uses about 30 pounds of copper a year. It was a thought-provoking trip, and I'm really glad we went and took a look.

Later, I got to see the mine from the Oquirrh Overlook, which you can take a peek at in this blog post.

To learn more about the mine and get directions for visiting, check out their website.


Anonymous said...

In the first week of physical geology I try to make the point that earth materials are all around us in a 21st century world. Aluminum? Beer cans. Lead? Sulfur? Car batteries. Copper? All wiring. Lithium? High tech batteries. Silicon? Glass, computer chips, augmentation for ladies. Iron? Anything steel.

When covering this list in my prison class I went through the list asking questions for various elements. When I asked about iron, one offender popped up with "The bars on the windows!". Yep it's a different world in there. It was always good to go home after class. That's no place to stay.

Enough mindless diversion. If it can't be grown, it must be mined.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, I've become "anonymous!"

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