Bingham Copper Mine, also known as Kennecott Copper Mine, is an open-pit mining operation in South Jordan, Utah.The mine used to be a mountain, but is today a pit that is 3/4 of a mile deep. The site is 2 and 3/4 miles across the top of the pit. It is the largest man-made excavation in the world, can be seen from space, and has produced more copper than any other mine in history. However, it is only the second largest mine in the United States. The Bingham Copper Mine is one of only two mines in the world that produce copper the way they do; the other is in Peru.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints first discovered that the site contained copper deposits in the 1840s, but did not pursue the copper. In 1863, the extraction of ore began and has not stopped.
The Bingham Copper Mine is extremely profitable- the value of metals produced at the site in 2006 was $1.8 billion- and the Chinese government has been trying to buy it for the past several years, through cover organizations. The mine is only expected to produce until 2030, but that does not stop China. If China does end up with the rights to the land, it is very likely they will be much more destructive than Rio Tinto, which, although it runs the most environmentally destructive operation in the state, still tries to be responsible in some ways: their largest industrial machines are as green as possible, they use top-of-the-line equipment to detect and prevent landslides and earthquakes, and they own Daybreak, a planned community that is extremely environmentally friendly; many of the houses run on solar and thermal panels, renewable building materials, and high performance appliances.
However, despite their efforts: open-pit mining involves severe earth disruption, leading to immense amounts of air pollution in a site this large. This largely comes from the transportation of the ore, but also from loading, unloading, blasting, and drilling. As a result, there is extreme air pollution in the surrounding area, with a radius of dozens of miles. It is needlessly destructive and harmful to everything and everyone who lives in that radius. Specifically, the air pollution in the area causes damage to the respiratory system and has pulmonary side effects that can make a person sick, affect their body forever, and even bring an early death. Experts say it is equivalent to smoking about 20 cigarettes a day, and the site has been in violation of the United States Clean Water Act since 2008.