Friday, October 2, 2009

Saturday, Sept. 26

Before leaving the Salt Lake City area today, I drove the 31 miles to the Kennecott Copper Mine. It is an active open-pit copper mine. It is the second largest copper producer in the United States (what's the first?) and the pit is the largest manmade excavation on earth (2.5 miles across and 3/4 of a mile deep) and can be seen by the space shuttle astronauts as they pass over the United States.

This is a view from the Visitor's Center on the rim of the mine. You can see the concentric circles around the walls of the mine; these are the spiral roads the monstrous trucks use to bring the ore from the bottom of the mine to the top. You can see some of the trucks coming out in this picture. The trucks are HUGE, each carrying 255 tons of ore!

This is a picture of a picture in the visitor center that shows an aerial view of the mine; I couldn't fit it all in one picture from the rim where I was standing.

This is what ore containing copper looks like when removed from the mine. They set up blasting charges every day to break up the rock into pieces small enough to be hauled out. Then there follows a complicated process to separate the copper (as well as the gold, silver, and molybdenum "contaminants") out from the "waste rock."

This shows the huge size of the tires on the ore-moving trucks. They (the tires) are 12.5 feet tall! It takes one ton of ore to produce 13 pounds of copper. 400,000 tons of material are removed daily, one-third of which is ore.

By the time I was done visiting the mine (and the gift shop), it was almost 6:00 so I got a really late start on my travels this day. I drove 4 hours straight until I got to Elko, Nevada, where I spent the night.

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