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Environment

Massive Utah Mine Illustrates the Human Geological Epoch

By Rebecca HorneMarch 26, 2010 6:09 PM

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The Kennecott Garfield Smelter of the Bingham Canyon Mine is located 17 miles west of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. It sits between the south shore of the Great Salt Lake and the Oquirrh Mountains. As the tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River, the Kennecott stack rises 1,215 feet from a 124-foot-diameter base. The Bingham Canyon Mine, owned by global mining giant Rio Tinto, has the distinction of being the biggest man-made excavation on the face of the earth, daily producing 150,000 tons of copper ore and 270,000 tons of "overburden." Called “The Richest Hole on Earth,” it is nearly a mile deep and about three miles wide at the top, and still expanding.

As photographer Michael Light points out, if you look closely at this photograph, you will see the beach of the prehistoric freshwater Lake Bonneville, behind the top half of the stack, to the left. Shooting from the open side of a helicopter, with nothing between him and the void but a lap belt, Light was in the air for about two hours, shooting some 450 exposures using a large format aerial camera loaded with 5” roll film. "Photographing Bingham Canyon is an act of looking at one geological epoch precisely as it merges into another, the Holocene becoming the Anthropocene," writes Light.

Garfield Stack, Oquirrh Mountains, and Ancient Beach of Great Salt Lake.

All images are by Michael Light, courtesy Radius Books/Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco[[Export Error NEXT>

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Earth's Largest Excavation, 2.5 Miles Wide and .75 Miles Deep, Looking West[[Export Error -- < PREVIOUS NEXT>

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Tailings of Barney's Canyon Gold Mine, Looking Southwest[[Export Error -- Unsupported < PREVIOUS NEXT>

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Interstate 80 Looking West, Oquirrh Mountains to the South

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