This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

All That Glitters

Astronauts in space can identify just two man-made objects on earth. The Great Wall of China is one. The other is the Bingham Canyon Mine, the world's largest open-pit excavation, located 25 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

While most people are familiar with the Great Wall, Bingham Canyon Mine is virtually unknown. More than 2.5 miles wide and 4,000 feet deep -- it's so vast, it produces its own weather patterns -- the mine is open to visitors from April through October.

I recently traveled there and discovered the surreal splendor of this mine, which, in a bizarre way, rivals Utah's natural wonders.

The hills here hold the richest copper deposit in the world, so far yielding more than 17.5 million tons over the past century. Mine operations are planned through 2018 to make the pit wider and deeper; after open-pit mining ceases, underground mining is expected to commence.

On the visitor center's sky-high promontory, I met similarly intrigued tourists from across the U.S. and around the world.

Jan Jorgensen and his wife, Kirstine Dahl, both 38, knew of the mine before traveling from Denmark. Other Danes raved about it and insisted they visit, Jorgensen said.

"It's amazing -- so, so huge," he said. "I've never seen anything like this before."

As Jorgensen and Dahl spoke about the mine, we watched as dozens of specially-designed trucks -- each the size of a large house, with wheels nearly 13 feet in diameter -- continuously hauled loads of up to 320 tons of rock from that day's mining site, about two miles away.

Bingham Canyon Mine is owned and operated by Kennecott Utah Copper , a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto Plc (RTP). Kennecott posted profits last year of $1.037 billion, driven largely by higher mineral prices and demand for metals in China, officials say.

Mining and tourism are top industries throughout Utah. The state lures millions of people to its main attractions, such as winter ski resorts, national parks and Temple Square, the Mormon hub in downtown Salt Lake City.

By comparison, the Bingham Canyon Mine Visitor Center attracted just 154,000 visitors last year. But this hidden gem, with an admission price of $5 per car, offers great value and a unique experience.

Food and Board

For tourists, a trip to Bingham Canyon Mine is, by necessity, a day trip from Salt Lake City or a stopover en route to another place, such as Zion National Park near Cedar City, Utah. There are few services near the mine.

For accommodations in downtown Salt Lake City, try the luxury Grand America Hotel (executive suites range from $249-$329), or the boutique Hotel Monaco ($119-$209). The New Yorker restaurant offers a good variety of seafood and steak entrees; the parent company also has excellent sister restaurants across Salt Lake Valley.

A Rich History

The Bingham Canyon Mine Visitor Center is located in the middle of the pit, at 6,200 feet above sea level; the highest peaks above soar to 9,000 feet. Since 1906, miners have been carving the canyon into the shape of a funnel, laced with a spiral of terraced roads.

Before getting enticed by the vistas, though, do watch the 16-minute film in the visitor center, which details the canyon's geology, the mine's history and current operations.

Mining began at Bingham Canyon in 1863, after gold was discovered there. Copper mining followed years later, to meet new demand for copper wiring for electricity.

But extracting this copper would prove to be a mammoth task. The ore here is of an extremely low grade, averaging a purity of less than 0.6%, and deposited throughout the entire mountain.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!


DOW 18,053.71 +23.50 0.13%
S&P 500 2,088.77 +6.89 0.33%
NASDAQ 4,806.8590 +33.3870 0.70%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs