Posted on

The Environmental Impact of Bingham Canyon Copper Mine: Biggest Open Pit Mine in the World

An image of the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine. The largest open-pit mine as of 2023.
An image of the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine. The largest open-pit mine as of 2023.

The Bingham Canyon Copper Mine in Utah, also known as the Kennecott Copper Mine, stands as one of the largest open-pit mines in the world. While it is a marvel of human engineering, reaching approximately 0.74 miles deep and 2.48 miles wide, the mine serves as a stark example of the environmental consequences inherent in open-pit mining.

The Ecological Footprint of Open Pit Mining

Open pit mining, like that at Bingham Canyon, involves the removal of large quantities of earth to access desired minerals. This process significantly disrupts the natural landscape. At Bingham Canyon, the sheer scale of excavation has resulted in a massive pit visible from space. The environmental effects of such large-scale earth removal include deforestation, habitat destruction, and landscape alteration, all of which have a profound impact on local ecosystems​​.

Water Pollution and Air Quality Concerns

The Bingham Canyon mine, like many open-pit mines, has also contributed to water and air pollution. Historically, mining operations have led to the release of toxic substances, such as mercury and cyanide, which are used in the extraction process. These substances can contaminate local water sources and harm aquatic life. The mine’s operations have also been linked to air quality issues, primarily through the release of dust and other particulates. Sulfuric acid, a byproduct of exposing certain types of rock to air and water, can further exacerbate these environmental concerns​​​​.

Landslides and Geological Instability

The Bingham Canyon mine experienced one of the largest non-volcanic landslides in North America’s history in April 2013. This event, in which approximately 2.3–2.5 billion cubic feet of dirt and rock thundered down the side of the pit, highlights the potential for geological instability associated with large-scale mining operations. While advanced monitoring technology allowed for the evacuation of the site and prevented human casualties, the landslide caused significant operational disruptions and environmental damage​​.

Efforts to Mitigate Environmental Impact

In response to the environmental challenges posed by the Bingham Canyon mine and others like it, there have been efforts to mitigate the damage. For instance, Kennecott, the subsidiary operating the Bingham Canyon mine, has invested in clean-up and remediation efforts to address the pollution and degradation of habitats. These efforts have been partly driven by strict legal regulations and the desire to avoid placement on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). However, the effectiveness of these remediation efforts and their ability to fully restore impacted ecosystems remains a matter of debate​​.

The Larger Picture: The Global Impact of Open Pit Mining

The story of Bingham Canyon is not unique. Open pit mines worldwide face similar environmental challenges, including deforestation, water and air pollution, and the displacement of local communities. The gold industry, for example, has been particularly criticized for its environmental footprint. The production of just one gold ring generates approximately 20 tons of waste rock and soil, contributing to widespread environmental degradation​​.


The Bingham Canyon Copper Mine serves as a microcosm of the broader environmental impacts of open-pit mining. While such mines are economically significant and contribute to global metal and mineral supplies, their environmental footprint cannot be overlooked. The need for more sustainable mining practices and stricter environmental regulations is evident, as is the need for greater consumer awareness of the environmental costs of the minerals and metals we use daily.

For a more in-depth understanding of the environmental impacts of open pit mining and the Bingham Canyon mine, readers are encouraged to explore additional resources such as those provided by the Smithsonian Magazine​, Wikipedia​, and Earthdata by NASA​​. This blog post on “Biggest Open Pit Mine in the World” was originally found at Join The River Coalition.

Posted on

Open Pit Mining Description: Unveiling the Environmental Dangers

This is an image of an open-pit mine.
Open-Pit Mine

Open pit mining, also known as open cast or surface mining, is a method of extracting minerals from the earth by removing the soil and rock that cover the mineral deposits. This process involves digging large pits in the ground, some of which can be several kilometers wide and deep. While open pit mining is often seen as an efficient way to access large quantities of minerals, it poses significant environmental threats, particularly to rivers and surrounding ecosystems.

Landscape Destruction and Habitat Loss

One of the most visible impacts of open pit mining is the drastic alteration of landscapes. The excavation process removes vast amounts of earth, destroying natural habitats and leading to significant biodiversity loss. These large open pits permanently scar the landscape, rendering the land unusable for other purposes once mining activities cease.

Water Pollution: A Threat to Rivers and Aquatic Life

Open pit mining significantly affects water quality and river health. The mining process often involves the use of chemicals, such as cyanide and sulfuric acid, for mineral extraction. These toxic substances can leach into the soil and groundwater, eventually making their way into nearby rivers and streams. This contamination poses serious risks to aquatic life and disrupts entire ecosystems. According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, mining operations are among the leading causes of water pollution.

Soil Erosion and Sedimentation

The removal of vegetation and soil for open pit mining increases the risk of soil erosion. This erosion can lead to increased sedimentation in nearby rivers, which affects water quality and can disrupt the natural flow of rivers. Sedimentation can smother riverbed habitats, harm fish populations, and affect the navigability of rivers.

Impact on Water Resources

Open-pit mining often requires large amounts of water for mineral processing and dust suppression. This can lead to the depletion of local water resources, impacting the availability of water for surrounding communities and ecosystems. In some cases, the lowering of groundwater levels due to mining activities can also lead to the drying up of nearby rivers and streams.

Long-term Environmental Consequences

The environmental impacts of open pit mining are not only immediate but also long-lasting. Abandoned mining pits can continue to pose environmental hazards for years, with stagnant water in these pits serving as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests. The ongoing pollution of rivers and groundwater from abandoned mines remains a persistent environmental challenge.

In conclusion, open pit mining, while an efficient method of mineral extraction, comes with a heavy environmental cost. Its detrimental impacts on landscapes, rivers, and ecosystems underscore the need for more sustainable and less harmful mining practices. Protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources must be a priority in the face of such ecological challenges.

Posted on

The Environmental and Riverine Hazard of Open Shaft Mining: A Join The River Coalition Viewpoint

As an advocate for environmental preservation and river protection, the Join The River Coalition is deeply concerned about the growing threats posed by open shaft mining. This method of extracting minerals from the earth, while economically beneficial for some, presents significant dangers to the environment and particularly to our river systems.

Devastation Below the Surface: The Open Shaft Mining Menace

Open shaft mining involves digging deep vertical or inclined shafts into the earth to reach ore deposits. While this method may seem less invasive than open-cast mining, its environmental repercussions are profound and often overlooked.

Ecosystem Disruption and Habitat Destruction

The excavation required for open shaft mining disrupts underground ecosystems. The removal of vast amounts of earth affects the stability of the surrounding land, leading to habitat loss and biodiversity decline. This disruption can also cause surface subsidence, altering landscapes and damaging ecosystems above and below ground.

Water Pollution: A Dire Threat to Rivers

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of open shaft mining is its impact on water quality, particularly on river systems. The process often unearths naturally occurring toxins like arsenic and lead, releasing them into the groundwater and, subsequently, into nearby rivers. According to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, mines are significant sources of toxic water pollution.

Moreover, the use of chemicals such as cyanide in the extraction process poses a grave risk to water bodies. These toxic substances can leach into groundwater and surface water, contaminating rivers and endangering aquatic life and human communities reliant on these water sources.

Acid Mine Drainage: A Persistent Hazard

One of the most devastating by-products of open shaft mining is acid mine drainage (AMD). When sulfide minerals exposed by mining activities react with air and water, they produce sulfuric acid. This acid runoff can last for decades, even after a mine has closed, continuously polluting rivers and streams. The U.S. Geological Survey has highlighted the long-term environmental impacts of AMD, noting its potential to devastate aquatic ecosystems.

The Ripple Effect on Human and Wildlife Health

The pollution emanating from open shaft mines affects not only rivers but also the flora, fauna, and human communities depending on these waterways. Contaminated rivers lead to a decline in fish populations, a vital food source for many species, including humans. Additionally, polluted water poses serious health risks to communities, often leading to waterborne diseases and long-term health complications.

A Coalition’s Call to Action

The Join The River Coalition urges a reevaluation of open shaft mining practices. We advocate for stricter regulations, better environmental oversight, and the development of more sustainable mining methods. The health of our rivers and the well-being of our ecosystems and communities depend on it.

In conclusion, the environmental and health risks associated with open-shaft mining are too great to ignore. It’s imperative that we prioritize the protection of our natural resources, particularly our precious rivers, to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for all.

Join us in our efforts to safeguard our rivers and oppose environmentally harmful mining practices. Together, we can make a difference for our planet.

Join The River Coalition: Dedicated to the protection of rivers and ecosystems from the detrimental effects of open shaft mining.

Posted on

The Environmental Perils of Open Cast Mining: A Join The River Coalition Perspective

Open cast mining, often referred to as surface mining, is a practice that has sparked intense debates globally due to its significant environmental footprint. The Join The River Coalition, a committed advocate for river conservation and environmental stewardship, aims to illuminate the detrimental effects of open-cast mining on our planet, with a specific focus on its impact on rivers. Our rivers are not just water bodies; they are the lifeblood of ecosystems, supporting a myriad of species, including humans.

The Scourge on Landscapes and Ecosystems

Open-cast mining involves the removal of large areas of the earth’s surface to extract minerals. This process results in massive landscape alteration, destroying habitats and causing irreversible ecological damage. The excavation leads to deforestation, soil erosion, and the loss of biodiversity. These disturbed lands rarely recover, leaving behind a scarred and barren landscape that struggles to support any form of life.

Rivers at Risk: Pollution and Degradation

One of the most alarming impacts of open-cast mining is its effect on river systems. Mining operations often lead to the contamination of nearby rivers with hazardous chemicals, such as mercury and cyanide, used in the extraction process. These toxins not only poison the water but also accumulate in the aquatic food chain, posing severe risks to wildlife and human populations alike.

Furthermore, the disruption of the landscape alters the natural flow of rivers, leading to sedimentation and siltation. This sediment overload can choke river ecosystems, hinder fish migration, and reduce water quality. The altered flow patterns can also lead to increased flooding or the drying up of riverbeds, causing further ecological imbalance.

The Unseen Cost: Impact on Communities

The ramifications of open-cast mining extend beyond environmental degradation; they also have profound social impacts. Rivers are crucial for the livelihoods of many communities, providing water for drinking, irrigation, and fishing. The pollution and destruction of these waterways threaten the very survival of these communities, stripping them of their natural resources and means of sustenance.

A Call for Action

Join The River Coalition firmly believes that the cost of open-cast mining far outweighs its benefits. It’s a practice that endangers our rivers, ecosystems, and communities. We advocate for stringent regulations and a shift towards more sustainable and less invasive methods of mineral extraction.

In conclusion, the environmental and social costs of open-cast mining are too high a price to pay. As stewards of the Earth, we must prioritize the health of our planet and its inhabitants over short-term economic gains. The time to act is now, to protect our rivers and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Join us in our mission to safeguard our rivers and oppose open-cast mining. Together, we can make a difference.

Join The River Coalition: Committed to protecting our planet’s rivers and ecosystems against the ravages of open-cast mining.