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Bingham Canyon Mine

Rio Tinto

Key Facts

Commodity Copper, Gold, Silver, Molybdenum
Location USA
Latitude: 40 deg 32 min N
Longitude: 112 deg 9 min W
Satellite Image
Owner Rio Tinto
Operator Kennecott Utah
Production Copper - 195 kt in 2011
Gold - 384 koz in 2011
Silver - 2.976 koz in 2011
Molybdenum - 13.6 kt 2011
Deposit Type Porphyry copper
Mining Type Surface
Reserves & Resources Copper - 835 Mt @ 0.48%
Gold - 835 Mt @ 0.30 g/t
Silver - 835 Mt @ 2.10 g/t
Molybdenum - 835 Mt @ 0.041%
(Dec 31, 2011, proven and probable reserves)
Mining Method Open Pit
Mining Equipment Electric shovels, haulage trucks (70)
Processing Equipment 60" X 109" Gyratory crusher, Semi-Autogenous Grinding mills (4), Ball mills (8), Flotation cells, molybdenum recovery circuit
Mine Life To 2032
Contact Information Kennecott Utah Copper P.O. Box 6001
Bingham Canyon, UT
USA 84006
Tel:  +1 (801) 204 2005
Fax: +1 (801) 569 6803
General Manager: Ted Himebaugh
Communications: Jana Kettering

Last updated: May 29, 2012


Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC), 100% owned by Rio Tinto, operates the Bingham Canyon mine, Copperton concentrator and Garfield smelter and refinery complex, near Salt Lake City, USA.

Bingham Canyon supplies about 18% of United States refined copper requirements and is the second largest copper producer in the US. Substantial amounts of gold, silver, molybdenum and sulphuric acid are produced as by-products.

In the first part of 2011, the Rio Tinto Group began a US$238 million feasibility study intended to extend the mine life. Capex was expected be between US$2 billion and US$3 billion.


The mine is located approximately 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Area population is close to a million people

The geographic feature known as Bingham Canyon received its name from the location's two first settlers, the brothers Thomas and Sanford Bingham, who arrived in the canyon in 1848. Initially, the area was utilized for livestock grazing and logging, but the region's economic focus changed with the 1863 discovery of rich gold and silver ore bodies in the canyon. Mining activity in Bingham Canyon boomed after the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Rail Road completed a line to the canyon in 1873, and as the region grew the focus shifted to the high-quality copper ores in the district. By the mid-twentieth century the huge open-pit Bingham Canyon Mine began encroaching on the community, and by the late twentieth century the Bingham townsite had been devoured by the mine.

Roads and air routes are excellent. Interstate 80 runs east to New York City and west to San Francisco, and Interstate 15 runs north to Canada and south to Mexico. Salt Lake International is a major airport.


The Bingham Canyon orebody is a porphyry copper deposit, formed by a quartz monzonite porphyry intruded into sedimentary rocks. It has the concentric alteration pattern and mineralogic zonation typical of porphyry copper deposits.

This classic copper porphyry orebody is not only huge but also enjoys a fairly uniform distribution of sulphide mineralisation, mainly chalcopyrite.

As of end of 2011, the stated reserves were 835 Mt proven and probable ore grading 0.48% copper.

These reserves are expected to enable open pit operations to continue until 2020 with additional mineral resources potentially extending the open pit mine life to 2032.

Recent exploration at the Bingham Canyon mine has identified a new copper-molybdenum-gold porphyry system beneath the current open pit (disclosed in March 2009). The molybdenum deposit is between 450-550 million tonnes at a grade of 0.1-0.15 per cent molybdenum. The average grade of the molybdenum in the open pit reserve is 0.045 per cent molybdenum.

Mining & Operations

Bingham Canyon is a conventional open pit mining operation. Large drill holes - up to 55 feet deep - are loaded with about 1,200 pounds of explosives to break the rock. Electric shovels load a fleet of 70 haulage trucks and the ore is transported to the in-pit 60" X 109" gyratory crusher which processes approximately 150,000 tons per day. Crushed ore is transported in 28 minutes over a 5 mile distance to the Copperton Concentrator by a conveyor system.

The open pit mine originally began operations in 1904. An extensive modernization program was initiated in December 1985 and was completed in 1988. A fourth mill line was opened in January 1992. The overall capacity of the ore treatment facilities is 141,960 tons-per-day.

A portion of the copper concentrates are smelted and refined onsite to produce cathode copper and refined gold and silver. The remaining concentrates are sold to other smelters.

Evaluation of open pit expansion options at the mine continued through the Keystone project in 2009. A pre-feasibility study is expected to be completed in 2010 potentially allowing conversion of significant open pit resource to reserve. Study of the underground expansion option was temporarily halted in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

In the first half of 2011, the group began a US$238 million feasibility study to extend the mine life at the Bingham Canyon mine. With this expansion, Bingham Canyon will mine an additional 974 million tonnes of ore. Total capex for the mine expansion project is expected to be between US$2 billion and US$3 billion.


Copperton Concentrator includes four Semi-Autogenous Grinding (SAG) mills, eight ball mills, and corresponding flotation cells. An attached facility extracts molybdenum disulfide, used in steel making.

Tailings flow through a pipeline to a 9,200-acre Tailings Impoundment Facility located about 14 miles to the north of Copperton.

The Copperton concentrator, opened in 1988, expanded in 1992, and again in 2006, contains some of the largest SAG and ball mills in the world. The copper concentrate is piped about 27km to the smelter.

A portion of the copper concentrates are smelted and refined onsite to produce cathode copper and refined gold and silver. The remaining concentrates are sold to other smelters.

The current smelting facilities are the result of major investment, comprising a new primary flash smelter and flash converter system, designed by Outokumpu with input from Kennecott, plus a slag treatment plant.

The converter treats matte that has been granulated and powdered. The 98.6% copper from the new converter is refined to 99.5% copper in two anode furnaces. Smelter off-gas is treated in a 1Mt/y Monsanto sulphuric acid plant. Cast anodes are railed about 3km to the refinery's electrolytic tankhouse, where marketable high-purity copper is produced and the gold and silver content of the concentrate is also recovered.

A molybdenum autoclave process facility is under construction - first phase of construction is to be completed at the end of 2012, while Phase 2 would be completed by 2015. The facility would enable lower grade molybdenum concentrate to be processed, would improve recovery and would enable production of both technical and chemical grade molybdenum products.

The 2011 feasibility study targeted at extending Bingham's mine life refers to a supplementary recovery of 3.7 million tonnes of copper, 4.1 million ounces of gold and 584 million pounds of molybdenum.

Environment & Community

One hundred years of open pit copper mining, grazing, and unregulated emissions from the old smelter at Magna, Utah took a toll on foothill areas. Current environmental management focuses on vegetation, water, and wildlife.

The mine's tailings ponds are being reclaimed and replaced with green fields. The ponds were "pinched off" and planted to grasses. Cattle and wildlife now graze the area. Various tree species are also used to vegetate the tailings ponds, including Salix and Populus species and occasionally tamarisk on very difficult sites. Vegetated tailings ponds provide habitat for many species of wetland birds as well.

South of the mine, material containing high levels of lead and arsenic was removed, clean soil deposited where needed, and more than one thousand acres of land recontoured and reseeded. The company has received three Earth Day Reclamation Awards and several national and international awards for these projects.

The smelting and refining facilities are recognized as the world's best for environmental protection practice and achievement.

Since 1992 more than 2.6 million people have visited the mine, with more than $2 million tour proceeds donated to local charities and non-profit organizations.

The Kennecott Utah Copper Bingham Canyon Mine Visitors Center Charitable Foundation donated an annual Foundation record of $195,500 to support 122 Utah charities in December 2011 only.

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