U.S. Water News Online
SALT LAKE CITY -- Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. is
transforming piles of waste rock and tailings ponds into more natural
terrain and building groundwater treatment plants to clean up a
century of mining.
The company spent $3.2 million on reclamation in 2005, officials
said in an annual briefing for the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining.
That doesn't include a cleanup Kennecott did for Daybreak, a planned
community where the company scooped up 3 million square yards of
Daybreak is under construction near the Salt Lake suburb of South
Jordan, the first in a series of communities planned on company land
that stretches 20 miles along the Oquirrh mountains, which frame the
west side of the Salt Lake valley. It has sold nearly 800 houses
already, about half of them occupied and the rest under construction.
Kennecott is reclaiming hundreds of acres and launching into real
estate even as it continues to claw into the world's largest man-made
hole, Bingham Mine. The mine's deposit of ore is expected to last
decades, and it has already yielded enough copper to wire every house
in North America.
A 1978 agreement with Utah required Kennecott to spend at least
$50,000 a year, equal to more than $150,000 today, reclaiming spent
mining lands. Environmental groups generally praise Kennecott for its
stewardship, and the company drew no criticism from neighbors at the
The reclamation "runs as long as we're operating. It's a continual
project,'' Kennecott engineer Vicky Peacey told the state board.
At $3.2 million last year, Kennecott spent more than 20 times
what's required of it under the 1978 contract with the state.
Peacey said the work involves re-grading piles of waste rock up to
400 feet high into more natural contours. It's adding a soil
amendment and organic fertilizer so that native grasses, shrubs and
trees, like mountain mahogany, quaking aspen and Austrian pine, can
take hold on the rocky ground. It's turning parts of a huge tailings
pile near Great Salt Lake into a grassy meadow that has attracted
burrowing owls, foxes, coyotes -- and a single antelope so far.
Kennecott also is building one reverse-osmosis plant and helping a
local water district build a second treatment plant, to clean
groundwater high in sulfates to tap-water standards, said Paula
Doughty, Kennecott's director of environmental affairs.
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