The Utah Bingham Copper Mines

The world famous Kennecott Copper Mine is an open-pit mining operation designed to extract from a massive porphyry copper deposit southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah amongst the Oquirrh Mountains. It’s main claim to fame is having produced more than 19 million tonnes of copper,  more copper than any other mine in history, and is the largest man-made excavation in the world.

The mine is owned by British-Australian multinational corporation Rio Tinto Group. This massive mining operation is ran by Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation which operates not only the mine, but also a concentrator plant, a refinery, and a smelter. Production started in 1906, and has resulted in the creation of a pit over 0.6 miles deep, 2.5 miles wide, and spanning over 1,900 acres. in 1966 it was designated a National Historic Landmark under the name Bingham Canyon Open Pit Copper Mine.  This massive modern marvel is the largest artificially made excavation in the world, and is visible to the naked eye from space. The mine employs close to 2,000 workers. Daily extraction totals 450,000 short tons of material. Ore is hauled away by way of 64 large dump trucks which each carry 255 short tons  of ore at a time; the trucks themselves cost about $3 million each.

The mine supplies provided about 13-18% percent of the U.S.’s copper needs and is the second largest copper producer in the US. Producing more than 18.7 million short tons each year, it is one of the top producing copper mines in the world. The mine also produces approximately 400 thousand troy ounces of gold, 4 million troy ounces of silver, 10 thousand short tons of molybdenum, and about a million short tons of sulfuric acid, as an unintended by-product of the smelting process. When Rio Tinto purchased Kennecott Utah Copper in 1989 they modernized the operation by investing about $2 billion.

The current mine plan runs through 2019. Rio Tinto has been splanning to extend the open pit 1,000 feesouth, which would continue operations through the mid-2030s. The plan will need to be reviewed and approved by the Rio Tinto board of directors and require 25 environmental permits.

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