The Pit and the Plume

The Kennecott copper mine in Binham Canyon in the mountains southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah is a National Historic Landmark. And it should be. As the largest open-pit mine in the world, it gapes as if a giant pyramid were pulled from the gray-and-brown earth, a monument to our consumer civilization. Some 200,00 tourists a year drive up the winding canyon creek road, beneath the high ridges covered with waste rock from the pit as if sand dunes had spilled across the mountains. They park at the vista view on the rim and admire Kennecott’s answer to a volcano. Even through the public 25-cent binoculars, the heavy dump trucks on the spiralling road to the bottom look like matchbox toys and the drilling rills like penny nails.