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South Valley Journal

New Rio Tinto Kennecott Visitor Experience is bigger and better than before

Sep 11, 2019 11:54AM ● By Christy Jepson

The lookout area where visitors can see the panoramic view of the Bingham Canyon mine. (Photo Rio Tinto Kennecott)

By Christy Jepson | [email protected]

What is 2.75 miles across and three-quarters of a mile deep and is practically in your backyard?  The answer: Kennecott’s Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, one of the largest mines in the world. 

Taking your family to the new Rio Tinto Kennecott Visitor Experience is a great fall family outing which will provide an engaging and educational activity for everyone. 

“If you’re 4 years old or 84, there is something for everybody at the new Visitor Experience…it is fascinating, engaging and just a fun experience,” said Kyle Bennett, spokesman for Rio Tinto Kennecott. 

According to Bennett, the new Visitor Experience gives people a sense of scale more than ever before. For instance, visitors can now walk inside the bed of a 2,400-square-foot haul truck and a full-size shovel scoop. Visitors can also learn about the mine’s history, safe mining practices, how ore gets refined to become copper, why mining is important even today and see a panoramic view of the mine.  

The new Rio Tinto Kennecott Visitor Experience has only been opened for six months. The old visitors center was removed in the spring of 2013 because monitoring equipment had been detecting movement in the mine for a few months prior.

“We closed the old visitors center just before the landslide in April 2013, which was the largest non-volcanic landslide in North American history,” Bennett said. Fortunately, because of advanced monitoring and planning, no employees were injured that April day when 165 million tons of rock slid down the northeast section of the open pit mine. The slide did damage roads, buildings and vehicles inside the open pit. 

The mine is so big that you can see it from space. Here’s some more facts to impress out-of-state friends and family:    

  • Rio Tinto Kennecott is the second largest copper producer in the United States with more than 2,000 employees. 
  • The mine produces up to 300,000 tons of copper each year.  
  • The Utah Copper Company was incorporated on June 4, 1903. Some experts of that day criticized it and said the company would never make money because the ore grade was too low.  
  • Since those beginnings, 20 million tons of refined copper ore has been produced.
  • It is one of the largest man-made open-pit excavations in the world.
  • Rio Tinto Kennecott comprises nearly 8 % of U.S. annual copper production.
  • Without mining, we wouldn’t have cars, cell phones, plumbing or electricity. 
  • If you stacked two Willis Towers (formerly the Sears Tower) on top of each other, they still would not reach the top of the mine. 
  • You could lay the soccer field at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, end-to-end more than 38 times across the top of the Bingham Canyon Mine before it would reach both sides.
  • Besides copper, Rio Tinto Kennecott produces copper, gold, silver molybdenum and sulphuric acid,
  • It’s the first open-pit mine in the world. 

The new Rio Tinto Kennecott Visitor Experience is located at 12732 Bacchus Highway in Herriman. The mine is open seven days a week from April 1 to Oct. 31. 

Reservations are required and can be purchased at riotintokennecott.com/visit or at the Bingham Canyon Lions Gift shop on site. Tickets are $5 each and children under 5 are free. All proceeds will be donated to the Kennecott Charitable Foundation.

The Visitor Experience starts at the Lark visitor parking lot. Once visitors check in, they are shuttled up to the Bingham Canyon Mine overlook to see the mine and exhibits. It is a mostly outdoor self-guided tour.