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Bingham Canyon Mine

The Bingham Canyon Mine is an open-pit mine extracting a large porphyry copper deposit southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, in the Oquirrh Mountains. It is owned by Rio Tinto plc through Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation which operates the mine, a concentrator and a smelter. The mine has been in production since 1906, and has resulted in the creation of a pit over 0.75 mile (1.2 km) deep, 2.5 miles (4 km) wide, and covering 1,900 acres (7.7 km²). According to Kennecott, it is the world's largest man-made excavation.[1]


Over its life, Bingham Canyon has proven to be one of the world's most productive mines. As of 2004, ore from the mine has yielded more than 17 million tons (15.4 Mt) of copper, 23 million ounces (715 t) of gold, 190 million ounces (5,900 t) of silver, and 850 million pounds (386 kt) of molybdenum. The value of these resources is greater than the Comstock Lode, Klondike, and California gold rush mining regions combined. Cumulatively, Bingham Canyon has produced more copper than any other mine in the world, although mines in Chile, Arizona, and New Mexico now exceed Bingham Canyon's annual production rate. High molybdenum prices in 2005 made the molybdenum produced at Bingham Canyon in that year worth even more than the copper. [2] The value of the metal produced in 2006 at Bingham Canyon was US$1.8 billion dollars. [3] The mine is regarded as one of the most up-to-date integrated copper operations in the world, employing 1,400 people. The smelting and refining facilities are recognised as being among the world's best for environmental protection practice and achievement.[citation needed]

The infrastructure required for an operation this size is impressive. 450,000 tons (408 kt) of material are removed from the mine daily. Electric shovels can carry up to 56 cubic yards (43 m³) or 98 tons (89 t) of ore in a single scoop. Ore is loaded into a fleet of 64 very large dump trucks which each carry 255 tons (231 t) of ore at a time, at a cost of approximately US$3 million per truck. There is a five mile (8 km) series of conveyors that take ore to the Copperton concentrator and flotation plant. The longest conveyor is 2.5 miles (4 km) long and passes through an existing railroad tunnel inside the mine.

Rio Tinto committed US$170 million to the East 1 pushback project, which will extend the life of the open pit at Bingham Canyon until 2013. Various open-pit and underground alternatives will also be considered after that.



Minerals were first discovered in Bingham Canyon in 1850, but it was not until 1863 that extraction began and the potential of the canyon's mineral resources began to be widely recognized. At first, mining was difficult due to the area's rugged terrain, but a railroad reached the canyon in 1873, prompting greatly-increased mining activity and accompanying settlement. The canyon's nineteenth-century mines were relatively small, however, and it was not until 1898 that plans for very large-scale exploitation of the canyon's ore bodies began to develop. That year, Samuel Newhouse and Thomas Weir formed the Boston Consolidated Mining Company, intending to increase mine development in the canyon.

A more significant development took place in 1903, when Daniel C. Jackling and Enos A. Wall organized the Utah Copper Company. Utah Copper immediately began construction of a pilot mill at Copperton, just beyond the mouth of the canyon, and the company actually started mining in 1906. The success of Utah Copper in mining the huge but low-grade porphyry copper type orebody at Bingham Canyon revolutionized the copper industry, and set the pattern for the large open-pit porphyry copper mines that today dominate the copper industry worldwide. Utah Copper and Boston Consolidated merged in 1910. The Kennecott Copper Corporation, established in 1903 to operate mines in Kennecott, Alaska purchased a financial interest in Utah Copper in 1915 and fully acquired the company in 1936.

Bingham Canyon mine expanded rapidly, and by the 1920s the region was a beehive of activity. Some 15,000 people of widely-varying ethnicity lived in the canyon, in large residential communities constructed on the steep canyon walls. The population declined rapidly as mining techniques improved, however, and several of the mining camps began to be swallowed up by the ever-expanding mine. By 1980, when Lark was dismantled, only Copperton, at the mouth of Bingham Canyon and with a population of 800, remained. Today, mining operations continue at full-swing in the mine, and it is now among the largest open-pit mines in the world. Work to expand the mine 600 feet (180 m) east began in 2005, continuing to increase its size, growth, and capabilities.

Visiting the mine

Kennecott maintains a visitor center open to the public since June 30, 2006 including a mine overlook above the mine, at 6,700 foot (2,000 m) elevation. The center is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm from April 1 through October 31. Tax-deductible entrance fees are: $5.00 for passenger cars, $25.00 for mini tour buses and $50.00 for regular tour buses. There is no charge for school buses, veterans’ group tours, scouts in uniform and vans from county-operated, non-profit senior citizen centers. All fees are donated to Utah charities and non-profit organizations that assist the poor and homeless, the disabled, those needing health and nursing care, senior citizen and youth groups. Motorcycles are not permitted. The mine is about a half-hour drive from Salt Lake City. Details and map

See also


  1. ^ Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Mine Visitors Center Website Accessed May 3, 2007
  2. ^ Bon, R.L.; Krahulec, K.A. (May 2006). Utah, Mining Engineering, p. 117. 
  3. ^ Bon, R.L.; Krahulec, K.A. (May 2007). Utah, Mining Engineering, p. 120. 
  • Kennecott Utah Copper Mine brochure (distributed to visitors), dated September 2004.
  • Bingham Canyon Mine is at coordinates 40°31′20″N 112°09′03″W / 40.522127, -112.150851Coordinates: 40°31′20″N 112°09′03″W / 40.522127, -112.150851
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bingham_Canyon_Mine". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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