Bingham Canyon Kennecott Copper Mine

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Tire Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, Utah, United States R E KongaikaWe recently returned from a trip to Utah, where you can find the largest manmade excavation on this earth.  Just a few miles from Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, there is a hole which contains copper, silver and gold. It contributes much to of the materials used in electric wiring,building construction, transportation,medical equipment like CAT scans, space exploration, and even everyday things like soap, food and medicine.

We were able to take our twelve grandchildren to this huge hole in the ground. The first thing we saw was a huge tire that is used on the humungous trucks used to haul out the earth from which the metals are extracted. The children were dwarfed and amazed by it.

The owners of the mine, Rio Tinto, are concerned with safety as well as sustainability of the environment.  There is a fence shielding you from falling into the huge pit. There are coin-operated binoculars so you can peer far down to see the activity in the mine. Around 1800 employees currently work in the mine, which has existed for more than 100 years.  The copper mine produces nearly 25 per cent of the copper used in America.

There is a visitor’s center near the mine which has many hands-on displays and exhibits. Three-dimensional models entertain and educate visitors of all ages. Our whole crew was excited over the many tiny replicas of the mine, including miniature trucks, trains, and other equipment. You can also learn about the history of the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, which was settled back in 1848 by the Bingham brothers. At one time, there were around 20,000 people living near the mine trying to make a livelihood from it.

Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, Utah, United States R E KongaikaThe geological forces that created the metallic deposits in the Oquirrh Mountains are believed to have been in action some 260 million years ago. It has been discovered that there are still plenty of minerals below the present pit.

Trucks Haul Earth Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, Utah, United States R E KongaikaThe mine is two and a half miles across and nearly a mile deep. It takes your breath away when you see it for the first time. It is said that you could put two Sears Towers on top of each other and not reach the top of the mine. Also, 500 miles of roads traverse the sides of the mine.

Sign Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, Utah, United States R E KongaikaIn the visitor’s center, there is a movie which explains the mining process. It involves many steps, including grounding the ore into fine particles, separating the valuable minerals from the waste rock, and then sending the minerals through a pipeline to a smelter. The valuable copper is transformed into a liquid in a furnace from which copper plates are made. There is also a refinery which removes the impurities before the metal plates are sent to market. During these processes, gold and silver as well as many other minerals are recovered.

We also learned that it takes 30 different minerals to make a computer, 42 to make a telephone, and 15 to make a car. Copper is an important mineral in each of these products. It was interesting to learn that The Statue of Liberty contains nearly 180,000 pounds of copper, and it has endured quite for over 100 years.


If you get the chance to travel to Salt Lake City, it would be well worth the effort to take a look at the Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine.

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, and has been living in the South Pacific for the past forty years. She enjoys trying to capture the beauty of the Polynesian islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:



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