The Richest Hole on Earth -- Bingham Canyon Mine

August 04, 2014

Kcc309_8june14 (1)

Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary AuthorRay Boren
A writer friend once described Kennecott Utah's Bingham Canyon Mine as probably appearing, when viewed from space, to be not unlike a giant thumbprint pressed upon the face of the Earth. In fact, it rather looks like that from a perch atop a mountain peak, the Oquirrh Overlook, just above what has sometimes been called the biggest and deepest man-made excavation on the planet. There are other contenders for such descriptions — pits in Chile or Russia from which it is said more material has been hauled, or that are longer or plummet more dramatically. But another phrase has stuck with the still-operating, century-old mine: as historian Leonard Arrington put it, it's “the richest hole on earth.” Billions and billions of dollars worth of copper and other metals have been pried from the Bingham Canyon site.
MineThe open-pit mine has been blasted and carved over the past hundred years into the Oquirrh Mountains southwest of Salt Lake City — which, if you look closely enough, is visible in upper center of the accompanying photo, taken on June 8, 2014. We're told today’s mine is 2.75 mi (4.3 km) across at the top and three-quarters of a mi (1.2 km) deep. More traditional copper mining in the vanished canyon began in the 1860s, but really picked up just after the turn of the 20th century, when it became the forerunner of modern mass-excavation, low-grade ore open pit mines. Bingham Canyon still produces about 25 percent of U.S. production of copper, and has yielded more of that metal — key to electronic components, pipes, and vital even medicine and food — than any mine in history: about 19 million tons (17 million metric tons), as well as great quantities of gold, silver and molybdenum (which are, in some years, more valuable than the copper).
Bingham Canyon Mine made the news about a year ago when, on April 10, 2013, a massive landslide ripped down the big pit’s northeast slope. The slippage was reported to have been recorded as a series of measurable earthquakes. 

Photo details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED or Tokina AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II (AF 12-24mm f/4); Focal Length: 20mm (35mm equivalent: 30mm); Aperture: f/11.0; Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500); ISO equiv: 250; Software: iPhoto 9.5.1.Insert - same except: Lens: AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G; Focal Length: 55mm (35mm equivalent: 82mm); Exposure Time: 0.0025 s (1/400); ISO equiv: 400.