Bingham Canyon Mine

Bingham Open-Pit Copper Mine - Kennecott Copper Mine


Useful Information

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Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah. Public Domain.
Location: 32 km southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Interstate 15, exit 12600 South, Draper, west on hwy 71, right on hwy 111 north, left onto dead end road to Visitor Center. (40°31'N, 112°09'W)
Open: APR to OCT daily 8-20. [2006]
Fee: Cars USD 5, Mini Tour Busses USD 25, Regular Tour Busses USD 50.
School buses, veterans' group tours, scouts in uniform and senior citizen free.
[2006]
Classification: MineCopper Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=4,000 m, VR=1,200 m.
Guided tours:
Photography:
Accessibility:
Bibliography:
Address: Bingham Canyon Mine, Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation, Public Affairs Department, P.O. Box 6001, Magna, UT 84044-6001, Tel: +1-801-252-3234
Louie Cononelos, Tel: +1-801-569-7433, Cell: +1-801-573-6737.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

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Panorama of the Kennecott Utah Copper Company and Boston Consolidated Mining Company, 1907. Public Domain.
1850 first copper discovered.
1863 start of mining activities.
1873 railroad completed, mining boomed.
1903 Bingham Canyon Mine opened.
1911 21 separate mining operations.
1970 consolidated into two mines, Kennecott and The Anaconda Minerals Company.
1985 open-pit mining operations halted.
1987 mine reopened after BP Minerals purchased the assets.
1989 purchased by the Rio Tinto Group.
30-JUN-2006 new Bingham Canyon Mine Visitors Center opened.
20-APR-2013 landslide.

Geology

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Bingham Canyon Mine satellite images before (left) and after (right) a landslide on 20-APR-2013. Public Domain.
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Cross-section through open pit, showing ore zonation, USGS. Public Domain.
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Geologic map showing bedrock geology and alteration zones, USGS. Public Domain.

The orebody is a classic copper porphyry with a fairly uniform distribution of sulphide mineralisation, mainly chalcopyrite. Chalcopyrite is copper iron sulfide. The highest grade ore contains 0.56% copper, but also 0.35 g/t gold and 3.16 g/t silver.

The are two areas of different mineralization, which will be mined by different techniques in the future. An ore body grading 0.70% copper, 0.27g/t gold, 2.69g/t silver and 0.035% molybdenum will be block caved. Block cave mining is a technique, where tunnels are built below the ore body, and then ore is blasted from the ceiling or falls down on its own. There is also a much smaller body of skarn ore grading 1.89% copper. With this high amount of copper it can be mined underground.

The mine's steep walls made it a high risk for landslides. An interferometric radar system was installed to monitor the stability of the ground. The system actually warned one day before and all mining operations were shut down. As a result there were no injuries when the landslide actually happened in 20-APR-2013. Between 65 and 70 Million cubic meter of dirt and rock collapsed. A second slide happened on 11-SEP-2013, again 100 workers were evacuated. The successful prediction of the collapse was a big success for the geologists of the mine.


Description

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Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah. Public Domain.
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Carr Fork Canyon as seen from "G" bridge. Bingham Canyon Mine, NOV-1942. Public Domain.

Bingham Canyon Mine is the biggest hole on earth, 4 kilometers long and more than a kilometre deep it is the largest of all man-made excavations. It is a huge open pit copper mine, where chalcopyrite, or copper iron sulfide, is mined. The mine is owned by Rio Tinto through Kennecott Utah Copper which operates the mine, a concentrator and a smelter. Because of this it is also called Kennecott Copper Mine. Kennecott is employing 1,400 people at one of the largest and most up-to-date integrated copper operations in the world. This mine is the third largest copper producer in the US, supplying more than 10% of the U.S. copper requirements. Substantial amounts of gold, silver and molybdenum are produced as by-products.

The Visitor Center of the mine is located right inside the huge pit, offering a great view of the steep walls. It has a size of 5600 m², a wide range of exhibitions, four video locations, restrooms, cafe, and gift shop. In the 90 seat theater a 16-minute video about Kennecott's history and copper production processes is shown. There is a fee to visit the center per vehicle, which is tax-deductible and donated completely to Utah charities and non-profit organizations.

The main sight is obviously the overlook into the big hole, which is mined in steps, so it looks like an inverted pyramid. The ore is loosened by blasts, the heaps of rock are shoveld into huge truck by excavators. Then rotary drilling creats holes for the next blast. 240 and 320 ton capacity haulage trucks deliver the copper ore to the in-pit crusher. The material is crushed to the size of soccer balls before being loaded onto a eight kilometre long conveyor. It is then carried to the Copperton Concentrator.

The Visitor Center was relocated in winter 2005/2006, about 100 m deeper into the mine. The is part of the East 1 pushback project, which will cost US$170 million and hopefully extend the life of the mine until 2013 or even 2017. However, there are further possibilities for open-pit and underground expansion.