Did you know that the average new home uses about 500 pounds of copper? That more than 50 pounds of copper is used in the average automobile? And there’s about 9,000 pounds of copper in a Boeing 747 jet? Makes you wonder where all that copper comes from, doesn’t it? If you’d like to see for yourself, visit the Bingham Canyon Mine located about 25 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, where you can peer into the world’s first open-pit copper mine. It’s so large, that astronauts can see it from space!
From the moment you drive up the very wide paved road to reach the Visitor Center, everything you see is gigantic—from the pit to the equipment to the surrounding mountain scenery. And then once you learn about the mining process itself— from the blasting to the crushing to the hauling, smelting, and refining— you really understand what a large-scale operation this is. And to boggle your mind even more, Bingham Canyon Mine is two-and-three-quarter miles across, more than three quarter miles deep, and is the largest man-made excavation project ever. Wow!
Although the interesting exhibits and informative video shown inside the Visitor Center are not to be missed, the big action is outdoors. From the outdoor viewing area you can watch a fleet of 80 monster haul trucks (each can carry 320 tons of material) going up and down the steep slopes of the pit. The trucks are filled by huge electric shovels that hold up to 98 tons of rock in a single scoop. A massive haul truck tire is on display outdoors (trucks have six tires). Each is 12.5 feet tall, 153 inches in diameter, and weighs over 10,000 pounds. It’s a good thing a tire will last almost a year because they cost about $25,000 to replace. And you thought tires for your rig were expensive! Blasting occurs two to four times a day, so you might get lucky and see one. But since the blasts occur pretty deep in the pit, it’s hard to get the full effect of 200 holes blowing up simultaneously, even though each is loaded with 1,000 pounds of explosives.
Since 1906 when the first steam shovels began stripping waste rock from the sides of the mountain to reach the low-grade copper ore deposits, Bingham Canyon Mine has yielded more than 19 million tons of copper, as well as vast quantities of gold, silver, and other minerals. Operations are expected to continue here through at least 2028, but don’t wait that long to stop by and see large-scale copper mining in full swing.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
12800 South State Route 111
Bingham Canyon, Utah
The Visitors Center is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. – seven days a week – April through October, weather permitting. Tax-deductible admission fees are $5 per vehicle; all proceeds are donated to local charities and non-profit organizations.