Another slide disrupts Bingham Canyon mine

Officials at Rio Tinto Kennecott had anticipated the collapse and no workers were harmed.

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Eight years ago, Rio Tinto Kennecott's Bingham Canyon mine experienced a catastrophic slide, pictured here in April 25, 2013. On Monday, the open pit copper mine outside Salt Lake City experienced another major slide.

A landslide inside Utah’s Bingham Canyon mine on Monday again disrupted operations at one of the world’s largest open pit mines. But officials at Rio Tinto Kennecott anticipated the collapse in the open pit’s southeast corner and were able to keep workers at a safe distance, according to the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, or DOGM.

“It was predicted and occurred in an isolated area in the southeast corner in the pit. Because the slide was isolated, mining operations resumed soon afterward,” the agency said in an email. “There were no environmental impacts and no damage to vehicles or structures. The cause is still being determined.”

In a statement released to Reuters, corporate parent Rio Tinto downplayed the severity of the slide.

“We continue to monitor the situation and will resume work in the area when it is safe to do so. Other parts of the mine and the Rio Tinto Kennecott operation continue to run as normal,” the statement said.

The statement did not state how much earth moved or to what extent it would disrupt production, but the slide was not nearly as severe as the mine’s 2013 wall collapse that greatly slowed output and took at least three years to repair.

Photos posted on Facebook indicate the slide was about 150 feet across and dropped for at least 700 feet, leaving a deep gash in the mine wall and covering the pit bottom with debris.

Last year, Kennecott pulled 62 million tons of ore from the 11,000-acre mine, according to its annual report on file with DOGM. The mine has been in operation since the beginning of the 20th century and is expected to remain in operation until at least 2032.

Bingham Canyon accounts for all the molybdenum and silver produced in Utah and nearly all the copper and gold. The 415 million pounds of copper it produced in 2019 was worth nearly $1.1 billion, according to the Utah Geological Survey.

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