Hole in the Ground

Will the Kennecott Landslide Bury the Local Economy?

By Peri Kinder

August 9, 2013

Regroup and Regrow

The Bingham Canyon Mine is coming up on its 110-year anniversary, and while this is probably not the way officials planned to celebrate, this is not the first challenge the organization has faced during its long history. The mine has endured price fluctuations and technology advancements, and it was even shut down for a period of time, but Kennecott leaders say that during the last several years, no other private-sector organization has provided more exports, income or prosperity for Utah families than the copper mine.

According to Keenan, the mine is establishing a “new normal” as it works through problems and does everything it can to keep the organization sustainable for the long-term, while continuing to give back to the community. Keenan is confident the mine will be back stronger and more efficient than before, with Kennecott once again being a strong economic contributor to the state and one of the largest copper-producing sites in the world.

“They don’t appear to be going anywhere,” Edwards says. “They don’t make decisions based on short-term events; they’re very much in it for the long term. …And while this situation is unfortunate, I think they’ll be back after they’ve done their work and get back in production.”

As Kennecott starts to get the mine functioning and its employees back on their feet, Keenan is grateful the situation wasn’t worse. The company faces a cut in production, a huge amount of clean-up and a bill for millions of dollars to replace buried or damaged equipment.

But no one at the mine lost their life. No one at the mine was injured. And to Keenan, that’s an acceptable outcome.

“All the equipment—that’s all replaceable. Production? Eventually we’ll get that back on line. And, of course, we’re going to spend a lot of money removing the dirt from the pit. But the most important thing here was we did have systems in place to monitor the slide. We have a lot of expertise in the business; we actually knew the failure was going to occur. We had response levels in place that allowed us to ensure that we had nobody in harm’s way. All of those other things we can cope with, in terms of equipment, but we would not have been able to cope with loss of life. So we’re very proud of our organization that everyone went home safe that day.”  

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