Open-pit copper mine has a catastrophic landslide - images

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Open-pit copper mine has a catastrophic landslide - images

Bingham is an open-pit mine and the landslide was the collapse of one of the pit walls. (For scale, the pit is a bit less than three miles wide and a bit more than three-quarters of a mile deep, and as you can see, the collapse stretches halfway across it and all the way from top to bottom.)

The landslide went off at about 9:30 in the evening on Wednesday, April 11. It was expected: like most modern mines, Bingham has redundant sensor systems (radar, laser, seismic, GPS) that measure ground movement down to the millimeter and give plenty of warning when a collapse is imminent. The mine was evacuated about 12 hours before the landslide, and nobody was hurt.

But the scale of the landslide was a surprise. Approximately 165 million tons of rock shifted, causing a highly localized earthquake measuring 5.1 Richter.

It damaged or destroyed roads, power lines, and other infrastructure, and a number of the giant shovels and dump trucks that move ore and waste rock out of the pit.

The lost equipment was worth tens of millions of dollars, but much more significant is the fact that the landslide has shut Bingham Canyon down for an as-yet undetermined length of time. Much more significant because Bingham Canyon is not just another copper mine. Physically, it is the largest in the world, and it is among the most productive. Each year it supplies about 17 percent of U.S. copper consumption and 1 percent of the world’s. When a cog that big loses its teeth, the whole global economic machine goes clunk.

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By netchicken: posted on 23-4-2013








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