26 April 2013

An update on the Bingham Canyon mine landslide

Posted by Dave Petley

Kennecott held a press conference yesterday to provide an update on the situation with the Bingham Canyon mine landslide.  This is well reported in a number of online newspapers, including Deseret News and ABC News.  The openness and transparency of the mine operators in light of this situation remains both admirable and commendable.  The nature of the challenges that the operators face in digging out the landslide are notable however.  To my mind the most important components of the media briefing were:

  1. The upper part of the slide will have to be removed to make mining safe;
  2. The majority of the ore lies under the slide
  3. The landslide mass is 150 million tonnes (which is about 60 million cubic metres).

The largest mining dump trucks can carry about 350-400 tonnes per load, which means that there hauling even a fraction of the landslide mass is going to be a major challenge. A very interesting aspect of this is going to be how the head scarp area of the landslide is to be treated, as shown on the image below (from the Kennecott Utah Flickr page, used with permission):


The obvious mass that needs to be removed is in the floor of the mine, but it is possible that some of the mass in the head scarp area is also potentially unstable.  If so, this may need to be stabilised first.  This is not a trivial job in itself.

The mine gave members of the media the opportunity to visit the site yesterday.  I am somewhat jealous as I would love to see this remarkable landslide!