Monday, April 28, 2008

A Massive Hole in the Ground, but a Cheap Trip

To the west of the Salt Lake Valley stand the Oquirrh (pronounced oak' ur) Mountains. This range begins at the Great Salt Lake at the north end and runs approximately 30 miles to the south. It forms the western boundary of the Salt Lake Valley and separates it from the Tooele valley to the west.

The most striking feature of the Oquirrh Range, when viewed from the Salt Lake Valley are the massive, yellowish and red, stair-stepped and flat topped mounds that cover about one-third of the visible range. These are anything but natural phenomenon. They are the result of nearly one-hundred years of open-pit mining in the hills.

The Kennecott Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine has become the largest open-pit copper mine in the world. It is so large that it can be seen from space by astronauts (check out views in Google Earth). It is two and a half miles across at the top and is over three-quarters of a mile deep- two Sears Towers stacked on top of each other wouldn't reach the top.

It has been one of the most productive mines in the world. Copper, gold, silver and molybdenum are all extracted from the mine. It has produced more wealth than the Comstock Lode, Klondike and California gold rush combined. The massive dump trucks, which are over two stories tall, can carry 300 tons of raw ore per load, which is a good thing considering the giant electric shovels can scoop up about 98 tons in a single bite.

Want a firsthand look at this man-made wonder? You got it. From April to October the visitors center at the rim of the mine is open to anyone who wants a look. The visitors center includes interactive displays and exhibits, 3D microscopes where you can view mineral samples, mining artifacts and model trucks. There is a 90 seat theater where a 15 minute movie is shown, describing the past, present and future of the mining operations at the Bingham Canyon Mine. Little boys are definitely the most thrilled, but I have seen girls really enjoying themselves as well. The visit can be as long or short as you want to make it- but plan on at least an hour to get a good look and to have some fun.

Place: Kennecott Copper Bingham Canyon Mine
Location: Follow Highway 111 south until you pass 118th south, then follow the signs.
Hours: Open from April to October, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (arrive by 7 p.m. at the latest).
Cost: $$ ($5 per car, regardless of the number of people inside)

View Larger Map

Distance from:
Salt Lake City: 28.1 miles
Ogden: 60.7 miles
Provo: 45.7 miles
Logan: 105 miles


Kennecott Copper Mine said...

Due to monitored geotechnical movement of the Kennecott Utah Copper Bingham Canyon Mine over the winter, the Visitors Center and overlook plaza will not reopen as scheduled April 1. Short- and long-term plans are underway to relocate the Visitors Center. Follow Kennecott Utah Copper prior to your visit on facebook, twitter or at for updates on a reopening.

Drew Goodman said...

Thanks for the update. We'll keep an eye on your Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as the website and let our followers know on the Things To Do, Utah Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.