Tour of Utah: Kennecott Copper Mine

Ever heard of the Grand Canyon? The Great Wall of China? The Greenhouses of Almería? They all (except The Wall) can be seen from space! And, so can another Utah destination: Bingham Canyon Mine.

Bingham Canyon copper mine, UT, USA: Rio Tinto, Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. Source: Spencer Musick (self).

I’ve always known it as Kennecott Copper Mine, an alliteration only matched by Kennecott Copper Corporation and Utah Copper Corporation at Copperton.

Tongue twisters aside, this pit is ENORMOUS. Dump trucks built for a giant’s playthings trundle down into the 0.75 mile-deep hole in order to excavate (still) “450,000 short tons (400,000 long tons; 410,000 t) of material” daily (Wikipedia). DAILY!

Back when I was a child, I went to the visitor’s center with a day care class. I remember being able to fit our group into a tire from one of those dump trucks they had on display, and remember the fear of standing so near the edge of so deep a drop.

Photo by Jay H on Unsplash

Kevin and I took our boys there a while back. We watched an interesting video about mineral extraction and processing. Like, did you know Bingham Canyon Mine is a ginormous pit because the copper exists as porphyry copper deposits? They have to dig up the dirt, sift through it, burn it, chemical it, burn it again, and send it off to buyers.

At the end, they have 99.99-percent-pure copper. They also have gold, silver, molybdenum, and by-product sulfuric acid. I’ve never learned so much about metallurgy in my life!

Like with all manufacturing, however, mine operations have not been great for the environment. Sifting ponds, runoff, and waste materials have contaminated the Salt Lake Valley’s groundwater. Chemicals released from processing damaged the health of nearby residents, historically. And, it’s kind-of difficult to ignore the fact that they’ve literally changed the landscape of that area -not just with the pit, but with what was in the pit:

What’s not to love about industry, right?

Seriously, though, the Kennecott Copper Mine is worth a gander if you’ve the time. It’s a short, 36-minute drive from Salt Lake International Airport to the visitor center. We went before they had a landslide in 2013; you can purchase interesting rocks!

Photo by Jim Witkowski on Unsplash. This is an old processing area, on the way to Tooele.

—–

On that note, here are the things I posted over the last week:

Wednesday, October 7: “Tour of Utah: Jordan River Parkway.” If you need some exercise, try it out.

Thursday, October 8: Wrote a sample poem for the A Mused Contest, “EH?

Friday, October 9: Announced the winner of the A Mused Poetry Contest, Fishman. Congratulations!

Saturday, October 10: Start of this week’s A Mused Poetry Contest! Send the over-proud hero plummeting with poetry!

Sunday, October 11: Responded to Di of Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge with “Dance Club,” and to Deb’s 42-word prompt with “A Surprising Escape.”

Monday, October 12: Responded to Carrot Ranch’s prompt in “A Dark and Stormy Man.”

Shared a quote by Joyce Meyer. Cactus hurt.

Tuesday, September 13: “Saint John City, Part 1.”

©2020 Chel Owens

24 thoughts on “Tour of Utah: Kennecott Copper Mine

  1. Our son lived in Butte, Montana, for two years until this year. It’s an old mining town, and the architecture makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time a couple of generations.

    I’m into protecting the environment, so I have mixed feelings about mining operations. People should be able to make a living, but I don’t like to see the environment damaged in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I once went to a seminar about chemical engineering and copper mines (much like you’re talked about in this article!). There’s a new system coming where you put a bunch of archaea on the lump of rock and it processes the metals in a more environment friendly manner.

    Problem is it takes a few years for it to finish, whereas the current process is much faster…

    Liked by 1 person

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