What Lies BeneathSteve Poulson, a retired stockbroker, praised Kennecott for cleaning up its operations. For decades, the concentrating, smelting and refining processes emitted a nonstop cloud that blew southward along the mountain range, and "it was really ugly," he said. Unlike Salt Lake Valley, I couldn't see any smog hovering above Bingham Canyon. The plume Poulson used to see along the mountain ridge was mainly sulfur dioxide, the primary byproduct of the copper-smelting process. Kennecott says its new smelting plant, opened in 1995 (reportedly at a cost of $880 million), is the cleanest smelter in the world, capturing 99.9% of the emitted sulfur dioxide, a noxious gas, which is then used to generate power for plant operations or converted to sulfuric acid for agricultural uses. Further, in the pit itself, trucks spray a million gallons of water a day on mining sites and dirt roads to reduce dust; company vehicles run on biodiesel fuels; and Kennecott's electricity plant operates with low-sulfur coal and natural gas. But despite Kennecott's efforts, a century of smelting and refining copper ore has left an ugly legacy. Areas around the Bingham Canyon Mine are on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency list of the nation's most polluted sites, as they contain dangerously high levels of lead, arsenic and selenium. In recent years, however, Kennecott has attempted to "reclaim" thousands of acres by replacing polluted soils with clean topsoil and sowing thousands of native plants, such as sage, scrub oak, aspens and wildflowers. The southern waste area has become home to wild turkeys, owls, coyotes and other wildlife. North of the Bingham Canyon Mine, Kennecott has expanded an area to safely store polluted rock.
|Bingham Canyon Mine|
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