Monday, August 11, 2008

Kennecott Utah Copper Mine

The Kennecott mine has intrigued us since the first time we drove down Suncrest Drive, turned the corner and saw that the mountains to the east of us had a big huge scoop missing out of a large chunk of the range. In the winter it looks odd and in the summer startling. Imagine tree-topping on a mountain. I'll have to take pictures and show you. This Saturday we finally made the trek and went to see the mine close-up. It was awesome. All those pre-school years watching Mighty Machines never prepared us to the grand scale of the largest open-pit mine on earth. You can see it from the moon!

The machines they use for mining are as large as a house and they make full-sized loaders look utterly diminutive:

And no picture can accurately portray the scale of a mine that is three and a half miles across! Here's Chris and the boys outside the visitors center.

We watched a really interesting movie in the visitors center about the history of Bingham Canyon and how the rock ore which contains less than one percent copper is processed and the minerals are extracted. Kennecott is a surprisingly green company considering the horror they are committing against the landscape. Sorry for sounding hard-lined but they cut off more than half of a mountain - I can't imagine who thought that was a good idea. But they do generate more than 60% of their own power through the steam that normally would just be released into the air and they recycle everything from materials to the water used in the process. They also have a pretty neat program where they acquire mined out properties and restore them to a beautiful natural area.

After the movie we looked at the displays and Kennecott impressed me again with the quality of their educational materials. We learned more in an hour there about the role of minerals in our life than I have in a lifetime. They also seemed to have a healthy respect for the people and the animals in the area before our time.

Our favorite exhibit was about minerals in your home. Click on the pictures to expand them if you're interested.

This was the perfect start to a study we'll be doing on the elements. While it's a very basic text, I'm going to use Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun! (Williamson Kids Can! Series) as a jumping off point for our discussions. It looks fun in a way that Brayden and Avery will appreciate.

A big, huge, love-filled Happy Birthday to Andrew Dudney and Jeff Maki.


Anonymous said...

Maybe they'd like to see elements in the comics, too:

Perky Nihilist said...

Thanks so much for the very cool link!

They're going to love it.