BINGHAM CANYON — It’s been four months since an enormous wall of dirt rumbled down the northeast section of the open pit at Kennecott’s Bingham Canyon Mine.
Crews are starting to make progress in their efforts to get the mine back to full operation, and a P&H electric mining shovel is helping clear part of the mountain out of the open-pit mine. The machine known as "99" is six stories tall and weighs 1,800 tons.
“So far we have been able to move 6 million tons from the head of the slide, and we are going to continue to work to clear the benches and the side of the slide to make sure that it is safe for our people to work in and around those areas,” Kennecott Utah Copper spokesman Kyle Bennett said.
On April 10, a massive landslide brought operations to a standstill. The University of Utah seismograph station recorded the slide as a magnitude-2.4 shake. No workers were injured, but roads, buildings and vehicles were damaged.
In one scoop, the dipper is able to shovel 120 tons.
“So we can provide an additional 200,000 tons of material movement per day using one of these giant shovels,” Bennett said.
And when there’s another 159 million tons of dirt and rock to move, such a shovel really helps.
“So we have a 24/7 operation, and we run this shovel approximately 20 hours a day,” said Jessica Sutherlin, senior analyst for Kennecott operations.
Just one operator controls the machine. On Friday, it was Randy McGuire loading truck after truck.
"The operator has great visibility from the cab,” Sutherlin said. “We also have cameras on the machine so he can look at the cameras in the cab and that visibility of the cab allows him to see his surroundings and the trucks that he is loading.”
The shovel is so big it was delivered in pieces and assembled on-site.
“It takes 60 semitrucks and 10 rail cars to bring all the parts into our operation, and then it takes a crew full time, 50 to 55 days to construct a piece of equipment this size,” Bennett said.
Kennecott lost three shovels in the slide, so 99 will start mining once the mine is back to full operation.
Despite all the remediation work going, ore is still being mined. Rio Tinto hopes to have all of the work done by the end of 2015.
In addition to copper, the mine produces gold, silver and molybdenum, a metal used in steel alloys.