Landslide experts are already calling last week's remarkable landslide in a Utah copper mine perhaps the most expensive in history. Part of the Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon mine let loose the massive slide on April 10, registering as a 5.1 magnitude earthquake on seismographs and engulfing tens of millions of dollars in mining equipment and infrastructure. The most recent company estimates put the mass movement at more than 165 million tons. The output of the mine has halted and will take months to get started again, which caused the company to estimate that the production of the mine will be only half of what was planned for 2013.
The good news is that not a single life was lost - a fact that Kennecott Utah Copper has every reason to be proud of. Just a few weeks ago a similar landslide at a mine in Tibet cost 83 lives. Unlike similar mines in other parts of the world, Bingham Canyon is equipped with state-of-the-art monitoring equipment which gave plenty of warning that the slope was about to fail. A lot more on this can be found on landslide researcher Dave Petley's blog.
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Petley, writes, "My interpretation of this is a loss of $770 million,... There are also some concerns that the event might cause an increase in global copper prices, but so far this does not seem to have occurred."
There are many more amazing images of this landslide as well on the Kennecott Utah Copper Flickr website. Look especially for the ore trucks at the bottom of the slide. They look like Tonka toy trucks from a playground, but are in fact gigantic machines, each worth millions of dollars.
IMAGE: Kennecott Utah Copper Mine landslide, via Flickr