Largest North American landslide in history cripples iconic mine
19th June 2013
The largest North American landslide in history has crippled the iconic Bingham Canyon Mine located in Utah. Nearly 165 million tons of earth dropped down more than a half a mile at the north east section of the copper mine, damaging roads, building and vehicles.
Thankfully no workers were injured during the landslide, however parent company Kennecott Utah Copper (owned by Rio Tinto Group) will be forced to begin cost cutting measures. Currently the company has asked 2,100 employees to take a vacation or unpaid leave.
It is a tragic incident for one of the United States' most historic mines. The mine has been in production since 1904 and was the first open pit copper mine in the world, and is still among the largest. In 1966 the mine was listed as a National Historic Landmark. Bingham Canyon produced about 25% of the nation's copper and 2% worldwide in 2010 and 2011, as the mine continued to be at the forefront of the American mining industry.
With industry analysts estimating the cost of getting the mine fully operational to be at least $1 billion, some very hard decisions will have to be made going forward. This catastrophe is a reminder that there are huge financial risks inherent to large scale mining operations and the best form of protection of individuals and equipment is through monitoring.
Like many modern mines, Bingham uses monitoring systems (radar, laser, seismic, GPS) to measure ground movement and give warning of collapse. It was these systems that initiated the alarm and led to the safe evacuation of everyone 12 hours before the landslide. It is important that as an industry we continue to invest in the safety of our workers and continue to minimise risk.