If you haven’t seen photos of the massive landslide that struck Utah’s Bingham Canyon copper-gold mine on April 10, check out the story and accompanying photo gallery at the Deseret News, and these spectacular photos at the Kennecott Utah Copper page on Facebook.
|Aerial shot of landslide in Bingham Canyon copper-gold mine near Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo courtesy Kennecott Utah Copper via Facebook.|
Happily, nobody was hurt in this astonishing incident; mine operators had plenty of warning this section of the pit was failing. But some of the massive mining equipment was damaged, and mining activity was halted for a few days. Check out these giant mining trucks, looking like scattered Matchbox toys under the pile of debris:
|Mining trucks partly buried by landslide. Photo courtesy Deseret News.|
Here’s an aerial overview of the mine and landslide. The mining pit is about2-1/2 miles across at it’s widest, and more than half a mile deep:
|Aerial view of landslide. Photo courtesy Deseret News.|
I’ve attempted to re-create the view above using the pre-landslide imagery in Google Earth:
|Pre-landslide view from Google Earth.|
Stepping back a bit, it’s interesting to see how close this mining operation is to residential neighborhoods on the western outskirts of Salt Lake City; especially the 9,000 acre (14 square mile) tailings impoundment located on the banks of Great Salt Lake about 15 miles north of the mining pit. Earthworks details some of the environmental problems and public health risks in this brief report [PDF].
You can explore this area with high-resolution imagery from 2010 in Google Earth and Google Maps. And here is a super-detailed view of the area that failed from Bing Maps — maybe you mining engineers out there can identify the fault or other structural weakness that lead to the failure. Let us know if you see anything interesting!
North is to the right in the pre-landslide Google Earth images below:
|Panoramic overview of the Bingham Canyon mining operation, looking west. Salt Lake City suburbs fill the lower third of the view. Great Salt Lake at upper right.|
|Vertical view from 2010 imagery showing the active mining pit.|
|Vertical view from 2010 imagery showing the 9,000-acre tailings impoundment. Note residential area at lower left, between SkyTruth logo and the impoundment.|