Scientists Size Up Bingham Canyon Landslide

Posted: Mar 3 2017, 11:18pm CST | by , Updated: Mar 3 2017, 11:25pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Scientists Size Up Bingham Canyon Landslide
Credit: University of Utah
 

Utah’s Bingham Canyon Mine, one of the largest copper mines in the world, had a massive landslide in April 2013

On April 10, 2013, two massive landslides brought down millions of tons of rock and debris into the bottom of a pit at Utah's Bingham Canyon and produced a gigantic cavity in that side of mine. The landslide was the largest man-made landslide in the history of North America, lying 970 miles deep and covering 1,900 acres of area.

Geologists from University of Utah have revisited the landslide with a combined analysis of aerial photos, computer modeling and seismic data. The data not only provides an update but lalso takes a closer look at how the landslide was created.

Previous researches suggest that slide occurred in the form of two major rock avalanches 95 minutes apart. But researchers have now used infrasound recordings and seismic data to discover 11 additional landslides that occurred between the two main events. Modeling and further seismic analysis revealed the average speeds at which the hillsides fell. The first slide was 81 mph while the second one was 92 mph with peak speeds well over 150 mph. Approximately 52 million cubic meters of debris were released during the Bingham Canyon Mine landslide in 2013. The debris was large enough to cover New York’s Central Park almost 50 feet deep.

Located in the southwest of Salt Lake City in Utah, Bingham Canyon Mine is the largest copper mine in the U.S. which produces thousands of tons of copper, gold and silver every year. However, the 2013 landslide significantly changed the shape of the mine and destroyed equipments, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the mining operation.

Amazingly, no one was injured during the landslide. The company that operates the mine was already aware of the instable condition of the mine and had installed an interferometric radar system months before the event. The sensors picked up rumble or the subtle changes in the walls of the pit that are normally caused by the earthquakes. As a result, the operation was halted and all the workers were evacuated before the landslide occured.

New details about the slide could help mining companies to assess and prepare for future disasters beyond our current experience.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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