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First look inside Bingham Canyon Mine: ABC 4 Utah tours the damage at Kennecott Copper

BINGHAM CANYON, Utah (ABC 4 News) – It's the world's largest excavation and open-pit copper mine and it's been shut down. It's been more than two weeks since the slide at the Bingham Canyon Mine and ore mining operations are still stalled. Thursday ABC 4 got to tour the pit and take an up close look at the damage.
BINGHAM CANYON, Utah (ABC 4 News) – It's the world's largest excavation and open-pit copper mine and it's been shut down. It's been more than two weeks since the slide at the Bingham Canyon Mine and ore mining operations are still stalled. Thursday ABC 4 got to tour the pit and take an up close look at the damage.

Operations have resumed at Bingham Canyon Mine, but they're only moving mountains of dirt. Kennecott Utah Copper is waiting on the Mine Safety and Health Administration to give them the green light to begin operations in the pit.

Kennecott Utah Copper President & CEO Kelly Sanders told ABC 4 News, “Production of ore is expected over the next few days, but there may be some surprises as we get down into the pit.”

Since Kennecott knew the slide was coming months in advance, they were able to put themselves into a position that once it was over they'd be able to get back to work.

Bingham Canyon Mine General Manager Matthew Lengerich explained, "We had placed, in the bottom of the pit, mining equipment that would allow us to move ore before the slide occurred."

Sanders said, “We have inspected the tunnel, the crusher, the conveyer, the shovels and the trucks, and that equipment is physically all ready to go into operation."

Material that has already been blasted is also down in the pit and ready to go. Since the crusher, the conveyer and the tunnel that carries the crushed rock out of the mine were saved from the slide once it's safe to do so they'll begin producing ore, but that doesn't mean Kennecott is back on schedule. Because of this slide they're expecting to produce 50% less copper this year than scheduled.

Sanders said, "As a result of that there will be some difficult decisions for us."

But the president of the company wasn’t very clear on what that will be. Workers have already been asked to take vacation and unpaid time off, but they're not saying how many volunteered to be out of work.

“Most of our employees are at work,” said Sanders. “Some of our employees have volunteered to take vacation and some time off without pay, but all other employees are at work at this time."

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says Kennecott's loss in production will impact the local economy.

"There will be a ripple effect and it will be felt for months and years,” said McAdams.

From the loss in tax revenue, to the worker's spending less at local establishments, a slow down at the copper mine is a slow down for everyone.

"It will have an impact on our revenue next year,” said McAdams. “It's probably too early to say right now. The most important thing is getting people back to work and helping people put food on their table."
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