Kennecott trying to stop seismic movement in mine tailing mountain
(KUTV) Kennecott Copper is preparing for "the big one." New science suggests a massive earthquake is more imminent than first thought, and that means the mine has some work to keep the Utah residents safe.
Massive amounts of dirt and rock are removed from Utah's Coppermine on a daily basis. The tailings are deposited near Magna just off State Route 201.
"We've deposited, over the last century, about 2 million, no actually 2 billion, tons of material in this location and it has all come out of the Bingham Canyon mine."
Paula Doughty stood on the mine tailings mountain today, talking about what she and Kennecott Copper have planned for the future.
Kennecott keeps a close eye on the growing mountain, but has new concerns about possible movement with as Doughty said, "new science that has come up in the last few months that indicates a large earthquake is predicted to hit the Salt Lake valley in the next 50 years." The chances are about 50/50 she said - which is a big change from what Kennecott was planning for in 2008 with the expectation of 6.75 Richter scale earthquake expected once in the next 1,500 years.
"You move that time frame up and it changes things and that risk is not acceptable to us because it's a time we are working in now."
In the late '80s, consultants were hired by Kennecott to look at the southern mine tailings mountain. One consultant said they could keep using it; a second suggested abandoning this mile tailings drop and moving north to protect residents of Magna. At the time, dumps continued but de-watering wells were built to move underground water off the mountain. The wells are an effort to stabilize the hill, but Kennecott now knows that's not enough and are adding an additional 12 de-watering wells immediately. It is a pilot project for 6 months that will amp up over the next couple years if successful.
Doughty who manages tailings and water services for the mine says "without the water we will not have the movement of the soils. It is as clear as that. Once we draw it down- it will not move."
"Give or take two years and this should be stable even if the big one hits."