Kennecott Copper Mine, located in Bingham Canyon, is the largest open-pit mine in North America. It is known as the “Biggest Pit in the World,” because it is the largest man-made excavation in the world. It covers about twenty-seven thousand acres, is half a mile deep, and two and a half miles wide. It runs twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. The mine produces gold, silver, molybdenum, and most predominantly, copper. Kennecott is the second largest copper producer in the United States and one of the largest copper mines in the world.
In 1848, two Mormon brothers, Sanford and Thomas Bingham, first discovered copper while grazing their cattle in the canyon. Mining did not begin there, however, until 1863. By the end of the 1800s, operations escalated with the development of open-pit mining. Kennecott mines were widely known for the scientific methods it used to unearth minerals (open-pit mining, steam shoveling, and the railroad). The mine became a model for “railroad-pit operations,” and became known as the largest mining complex in the world by 1912. Kennecott was one of the few mines to survive World War II. While most mines were shut down during the war, Kennecott continued to operate. Then, in 1966, it was deemed a National Historic Landmark.
Today, Kennecott Copper Mine has produced more than nineteen million tons of copper. It is owned and operated by the Rio Tinto Group, which is an international mining company. Kennecott makes efforts to educate the public about its “safe mining” practices. In 2013, the mine experienced one of the largest human caused landslides in history. Over fifty-two million cubic meters of rock plummeted down the mine. Because of the mine’s “safe mining” practices, engineers predicted the slide weeks in advance. Workers and local residents were warned of the anticipated slide and no one was hurt. However, the landslide had a great affect on mining operations. Efforts turned to safety, preventing another landslide, and removing the large amount of debris. At the same time, Kennecott was still expected to produce minerals. The mine continues to experience the consequences of the landslide today.
Kennecott Copper Mine has a public visitor’s center, where guests can see the mine, watch it operate, and learn about Utah’s mining history. Since opening, it has been a popular tourist spot in Utah. The visitor’s center was closed as a result of the landslide, but is expected to reopen again.