New project at Kennecott Copper Mine to ‘bring mountain back to life’

KENNECOTT COPPER MINE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – It is makeover time for Utah’s biggest excavation site.  Monday, officials announced new plans to beautify and south- and east-facing rock piles of Rio Tinto Kennecott. 

It is massive, it is famous, and if we are being honest, The Rio Tinto Kennecott Copper Mine is not exactly an ideal view. 

“We have a very open dialogue with the community, and one of the things they’ve asked for for many, many years is if we can enhance the way these historic waste piles look.  We have an opportunity right now to come in and make that change,” said Kyle Bennett, spokesperson for Kennecott.

With new plans to transform the appearance of the mine, General Project Manager Michael Piercy says there is a lot to do.  His team of expert engineers will start by developing a set of several new environmentally friendly cut-off walls.

“It’s designed to capture storm water and channel storm water into part of a draining system for recycling for the business,” Piercy explained. 

Project leaders say the public will basically see the mountain come back to life.  Instead of seeing the golden-colored mine people now see from basically anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley, the site will look green and vegetated about three miles across.

“It will be much more natural.  It’ll look similar, I suppose, to what the mountain may have looked like at one point in its life,” Piercy said. 

Supposedly, the process is simple.  Crews will use material from inside the mine to build up the outside, creating a more evenly slanted landscape.   They will cover the slope in fresh soil, and then lay seeds, which will grow into vegetation similar to a reclamation done there in the 1990’s.

“In addition to the aesthetics, the performance of [mining processes] will be improved.  It will significantly improve our ability to handle waste run-off,” Bennett added. 

Officials say the project will also improve Salt Lake’s air quality.

The $100 million project is expected to be finished by the end of 2020. 

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