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Closure of Kennecott's visitor center won't hurt charities

Published May 2, 2013 2:19 pm

Bingham Canyon • Mine plans to match last year's level of entry-fee donations.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The giving will go on, landslide or not.

Every year since 1992, fees paid to access the Bingham Canyon Mine Visitor Center have been donated to charitable groups around the Salt Lake Valley. Last year, the visitor center's philanthropic foundation contributed a record $211,000 to 128 do-gooder organizations, based on fees paid by 187,360 visitors, another record.

There will be no visitors this year, thus, no entry fees. The Visitor Center is closed for the year.

Its building was emptied of merchandise and exhibits in March when it became apparent to Kennecott Utah Copper that its underlying slope was moving. The whole center then was trucked away before the slope failed April 10, moving 150 million tons of waste rock into the pit's depths, cutting production by 50 percent.

Kennecott officials have decided that local charitable organizations will not share the pain of the collapse. The company will match last year's donation, splitting the money between however many groups qualify in an application process already underway on Kennecott's website.

"This isn't fun money. This is money for the absolutely truly needy," said Ted Himebaugh, foundation president and the Bingham Canyon Mine's former general manager, noting that funding recipients typically help the homeless, the disabled, veterans, children and the elderly. "We choose groups that fit this fairly tight definition, that are there for the people first in need," he added.

While extra consideration is given to groups whose services go to people tied directly or indirectly to Kennecott, Himebaugh noted that recipients have come from as far away as Logan and Provo.

Catholic Community Services is a longtime beneficiary of the foundation's largesse, which is used to fund the preparation of meals at the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen in downtown Salt Lake City.

"We distributed hundreds of thousands of meals last year to families — men, women and children — and that need only grows," said spokeswoman Danielle Stamos.

"Without partnerships like the one we have with the foundation, we could not meet that need," she added. "It's a testament to Kennecott that they understand that people in the community rely on them and look to them for support. It's great that they're willing to say 'We're going to be there for you guys' and want to continue no matter what. We couldn't continue without support like theirs."

Celeste Eggert, development director for The Road Home, said the downtown shelter was "extremely grateful for the support of Kennecott" and other private funders, whose donations amount to half of the group's budget. "It is not an exaggeration to say that we simply could not exist without the community's support."

Kennecott also has made regular donations to Salt Lake County Aging Services, both through the foundation and the company's corporate giving program.

"Their support has been tremendous in delivering key critical services to Salt Lake County seniors, their families and their caregivers," said Ken Venables, spokesman for the county Division of Aging Services. "It helps save taxpayer money in the delivery of effective services."

During the last four years, he said, the foundation has given the agency $120,000 for senior centers (including $93,000 for 16 of the county's 19 facilities), Meals on Wheels, senior transportation and the senior companion program. "At certain times, these services are life saving — and that's not an exaggeration," Venables added.

Himebaugh said a rejuvenated Visitor Center is expected to reopen in 2014, upgraded to appeal more to historically natured people as well as families and children.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg —

To apply

Oct. 15 is the deadline for charitable organizations to apply for Kennecott grants at http://www.kennecott.com/kennecott-foundation. Since 1992, the Bingham Canyon Mine Visitor Center Charitable Foundation has donated more than $2.8 million to charities and nonprofits.