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BINGHAM CANYON — Kennecott received clearance Monday to inspect part of the copper pit buried in the massive landslide earlier this month, but has cut back on various contracted projects.
Kennecott asked employees to take voluntary vacation and unpaid time off while it assesses the business impacts of the slide. But for Cemetation, a company that contracts with Kennecott, indefinite suspension is not a viable option. It has laid off 45 workers.
Thursday's limited-access inspection gave Rio Tinto a better idea of when its workers can resume work in its full capacity at Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Mine, which was partially buried by a 165 million ton landslide on April 11.
Limited mining resumed April 13 in an area of the mine that was unaffected by the slide. But after various contracted projects were indefinitely suspended and terminated, those contracted companies are already taking action, including layoffs by contractor Cementation.
Cementation is an underground mining company that was contracted by Rio Tinto to work in the Kennecott mine on an expansion project. Crews were digging two tunnels 3,000 feet underground.
Tyler Thompson, who moved from Nephi to Eagle Mountain to work with Cementation, was laid off Friday. The company cited the massive landslide and subsequent project suspensions.
"I didn't anticipate the slide being this big. I thought the slide was going to happen and we'd be back to work in a few days, and then when it really did happen, I was sick to my stomach," Thompson said.
"The two portals we have are completely covered. They're covered with five to 700 feet of dirt and rock. We had over 30 pieces of equipment and shop. We had safety Connexes. We had our whole organization down there."
Thompson is still in the process of figuring out a plan for the future.
"What do I do now? I gotta call the landlord and tell her I can't afford the place anymore," Thompson said. "I gotta sell everything that I worked so hard the last couple of years to get. It's going to affect us as a family. It's gonna be real tight."
Despite the loss of a job, Thompson is grateful no one was injured in the slide.
"That's the number one thing, is everybody got to go home safe," he said.
Top image: Cementation crew by Tyler Thompson