Ted Himebaugh, General Manager of Integrated Operations at Kennecott Utah Copper, said the technology is called pit slope radar and it has been in place for about three to four years.
“Our newest technology detected the movement,” he said.
The radars gave officials a big advantage in keeping workers out of harm’s way. By Wednesday morning, all workers had been evacuated from the predicted area.
The slide occurred around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Himebaugh said the pit slope radar technology is backed up by lasers and prisms and wires in the ground that detect movement in the earth. The radars scan the entire wall constantly, capturing over 380,000 images every four minutes.
“If it comes back and picture is different we know there is a difference in distance,” Himebaugh said.
The difference is noted with colored dots.
Himebaugh said the technology was adopted from the military and said he does not know what might have happened without it.
“In some of the other days without that technology we might have been mining differently,” he said.
The technology helped officials plan and prepare for the slide, including re-routing roads, but most importantly keeping employees safe.
Himebaugh said the canyon moves naturally each year, but slides like this can happen with workers interrupt the geological cycle. He said his workers have great respect for the canyon.
Kennecott officials are using the same technology to determine when it is safe to return to the pit. It will likely be days or weeks before they get a scope of how massive the slide was.