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Top stories of 2013: the Bingham Canyon Mine landslide

By Jed Boal | Posted - Dec 27th, 2013 @ 10:31pm


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BINGHAM CANYON — Kennecott employees reflect on the massive landslide at Bingham Canyon Mine.

Pictures and video of the landslide at Bingham Canyon Mine in April shocked residents across Utah. The slide moved more than 165 million tons of rock and dirt into the open pit mine. Nobody was hurt in the slide, which was about 2,000 feet wide and 2,000 feet long.

"We have not been able to determine the magnitude of the slide at this time, but we do know that it is significant," said Kennecott employee Kyle Bennett shortly after the slide occurred.

Kennecott had feared an impending slide for two months and was able to warn nearby residents. Ted Himebaugh was part of a team that focused on the slide.

"It's the largest slide we've ever had at the Bingham Canyon mine, and I don't know if it's the largest slide in Utah, but it's a big slide," said Ted Himebaugh, the general manger of operational readiness. "It had rock piled 300 feet deep. We were not expecting that it would cover that much area in the bottom."

The drastic decrease in copper production after the slide led to dozens of layoffs for Kennecott employees. When Kennecott crane operator, Jeremy Moore heard of the landslide, he said he immediately thought of his wife and kids and their financial future.

"Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, so we'll just have to wait and see," Moore said.

To soften the impact, the company asked workers to take vacation and voluntary time, and some did.

"What we heard today of course was very bad news," said United Steel Workers Union representative, Wayne Holland. "What we're going to be concerned about the next few days is to minimize the effect as much as we can."

A total of 100 workers were laid off, and another 130 retirement eligible union employees accepted a resignation pay out.

However in late October, the mine access road was reopened six months earlier than planned.

"We've moved over 14 million tons from the top and sides of that failure in an effort to return this area to a safe configuration for our miners," said Matt Lengerich, the general manager of Bingham Canyon Mine.

With the road open, the mine was expected to produce roughly 200,000 tons of refined copper by the end of 2013 — a number that seemed unimaginable when the slide hit.

But, officals say there's still plenty of work before normal operations resume in 2016 including removing 100 million tons of material that remain in the pit.

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