A friend suggested we check out the copper mine not far from Salt Lake City. Great suggestion! What an incredible operation!
The company that mines there is Kennecott Utah Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto and there are mine tours available. The tours are not crowded this time of year so it was only four us on the bus that makes the climb to the top rim of the mine.
The Bingham Canyon Mine as operated by Rico Tinto Kennecott provides nearly a quarter of the US’ copper needs and throughout its history has produced more copper than any other mine, more than 19 million tons. The mine is the largest man-made excavation on Earth.
Along the way, you can see huge diesel-electric trucks hauling overburden up the mountain. A 6.5 mile conveyor chute from up near the mining operation carries mineral-laden rock to the processing plant down below.
The view of the mine from the top rim is incredible. This mining operation has 121 trucks that can handle 420 tons a load. They Geo Map the trucks so they know where they are at any time and what they have in their load. When they are ready for their load to be processed, they come to the chute to dump their load. Now drones are also used to scan the operation for safety and other operational needs.
Also at the rim top are examples of the equipment being used. Humongous would be the correct word for these pieces of equipment.
Look closely in this picture and you’ll see how small the trucks look in this massive copper mining operation. The Bingham Canyon mine was discovered by a Mormon in 1847 but he abandoned the mine because it was deemed by Brigham Young to be more important to be focused on food production for the new settlers coming by the thousands. Understandable the Bingham pioneer family get some credit for this operation by name and is now a Registered National Historic Landmark.
Old mining equipment really is primitive compared to today’s!
After the tour, not too far of a drive is the Great Salt Lake State Park. Across the street from the visitor center is the giant smelter tower described at the RioTinto mine.
The Great Salt Lake is near its all-time low with the 8 year drought. The lake has actually been slowly decreasing in size for the past 30 years. The water level previously came all the way to the bric-brac rocks. The Saltair, built in 1893, was “the” place to visit on the shores of the lake. Here is a picture from the past compared to now, no longer open and no longer on the lake.
The Marina at the Great Salt Lake State Park is almost completely dry with all the boats just sitting in a row along the shore. Sad for these boat owners, and no-doubt a long-term problem for The State of Utah.
We went out on the ‘beach’ and down to the water line, where you can see it was a nice channel out to the larger lake at one time. Now you can see the salt crystal formations growing larger and larger. Interesting to see this in person after hearing so much about the drought-induced receding. The only fish in the lake are brine shrimp which is now the main commercial industry.
Our day trip is complete. One more day to explore.