Rio Tinto Kennecott visitor experience reopens after two-year closureJun 14, 2022 05:52PM ● By Rachel Aubrey
A vantage point of the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine which remained fully operational during the pandemic. Visitors are encouraged to come and learn about mining and how it impacts daily life. (Rachel Aubrey/City Journals)
By Rachel Aubrey | [email protected]
Those looking for an educational outing during the summer, need only take a drive up the mountain. On Friday, May 20, the visitor center at the Bingham Canyon mine opened once again to the public after being closed the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Founded in 1903, the mine is the largest human-made, open pit mine in the world and prior to the pandemic saw approximately 45,000 visitors a year. The visitor experience offers education about the history of the mine and the process of turning ore into copper, a material found in such products as smart phones, laptops, televisions and other household appliances.
Education is important component of the visitor center experience according to Rio Tinto Kennecott Manager for Communities and Social Performance Ryan Perry.
“We want to have kids up here to learn about geology and minerals,” Perry said. “We want to inspire them.”
Inspire, educate, and leave the world a better place. According to Rio Tinto Kennecott Superintendent for Operations Support, Anthony Hoffman, Rio Tinto invests millions of dollars a year to try to make the earth better, despite the ongoing mining operation. In 2020, Rio Tinto partnered with Brigham Young University students and professors from the department of plant and wildlife sciences and the department of chemistry and biochemistry to reclaim land surrounding the mine.
“We know we’re disturbing the earth, and we want to try to put the earth back in the same position that it was, if not better,” Hoffman said.
Present on opening day was Ray Anderson, a former Utah resident, who now resides in Green River, Wyoming. Anderson came specifically to participate in some pump training on site but couldn’t help take some time see how vast the site has become.
“This is one of the only mines in the world where you can stand over and actually see what’s happening,” Anderson said. “This is phenomenal.”
Anderson said that most of the public don’t stop to consider what mining actual is and how it impacts everyday life. As a former contractor during the early 2000s, Anderson has not been to the mine since before the 2013 slide, which caused the original visitor center closure. The visitor center was reopened in 2019, and then closed again a year later due to the pandemic.
Even during the pandemic, the mine itself remained fully operational, running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. According to the website, reservations are still required at this time however the visitor experience will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week with shuttles running up the canyon every 30 minutes. Visitors are asked to park in the Bingham Canyon Lark parking area.
All proceeds from ticket sales are donated to the Kennecott Charitable Foundation, a Utah-based charitable organization that has been helping in the local community since 1992 through various ways including food pantries, school programs and education programs. According to Perry, in 2019 the charity was able to donate $150,000 to approximately 49 different organizations.
To book tickets online and for more information visit www.riotinto.com/operations/us/kennecott/visitor-experience