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Photos of large and non fatal mine collapse
April 25, 2013 3:57 AM   Subscribe

Inside a mile-deep open-pit copper mine after a landslide. Flickr set and other links in the article.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (27 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here is a link to the Flickr set.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:03 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw this a week ago on BLDGBLOG. It's interesting to contrast BoingBoing's take which is all about economics and gear and stats. Whereas BLDGBLOG was all about the aesthetics of the event.
posted by vacapinta at 4:03 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Set off by snowboarders, no doubt. That's a lot of dirt let loose.
posted by three blind mice at 4:08 AM on April 25, 2013


I've posted it before, I'll post it again, as my mine-engineer grandfather used to say often, "land is liquid!"
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:20 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whoa. I've been there. One of those places like the Grand Canyon where it is truly difficult to wrap your mind around the actual scale of the place. It's absolutely -incredible- watching one of those massive trucks inching along up the road, looking normal... until it gets up closer and you see a regular pickup truck pass it, the top of the cab not even coming halfway up one of the big guy's wheels. And yikes, look at this image from the Deseret News of those trucks.

Check out (pre-collapse) satellite imagery of the mine - it's pretty insane, realizing just how big it is. (I think my little marker there is the visitor's center, which I believe is near where the collapse happened? Could be wrong. In any case, see how far you can zoom out before you can't see the scar anymore.)

I heard about the collapse last weekend in the paper, but these pictures are pretty amazing, and I had no idea they'd been expecting this since February, and knew exactly when to evacuate everyone. Good for them.
posted by po at 4:57 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The power of dumb mass, rollicking down a hill, upending the economics of a multinational.

In general, I don't expect we'll see to large an effect of this on the economy. Whilst 7% of US copper and 1% of global copper is significant, let's have no doubts about that, copper prices have stabalised, and commodity prices may now be on retreat.

This is in part owing to the slowing of massive growth of China's economy, and well-expected. I was having a discussion last week about the macroeconomics of commodities, and if Australia would suffer – a canary in a coal mine, so to speak – on flagging Chinese growth.

The first point to consider is that slowing GDP growth does not mean a shrinking economy. Today's Chinese economy growing at 7% represents annual growth considerably larger – in nominal terms – than 14% ten years ago. On an interesting side note, Australia is quite well-protected now, as it's economy has diversified. When the financial crisis hit, US consumption diminished, but Chinese consumption accelerate. Beijing saw a huge opportunity for a bargain, as the world' leading player took a break from the table.

What does this have to do with a copper mine in Utah? Whilst this may constrain copper supplies, it should not massively reprice in the mid-term because demand is stabilising.

What is interesting about these disasters – and it's something someone should study – is the effect it will have on the recycling industry. The reality of the far future, is the only sustainable way to inhabit the earth is reusing as much material as possible. Copper is already heavily reused, as it's quite easy to reuse (compared to something like plastic). If the natural copper price were to rise substantially, that would ideally result in additional capital investment and capacity for recycled copper. Thus, from a sustainability point of view, a major source of supply going offline may well contribute to more investment in recycling facilities. It's not that the majority of copper is not recycled, it very well may be, but that the cost of recycling copper can diminish.

In a paranoid fiction, one could wonder if this was not accidental. That Rio Tinto saw stabilising copper prices and decided to "take some supply offline for a while". But (in the absence of Art Bell) I'll leave that to Jeff Rense and Alex Jones.
posted by nickrussell at 5:02 AM on April 25, 2013


Oh, wait, clicked my googlemaps link again and the marker is definitely not on the visitor's center this time - it's near the road, to the northwest of the arrow. Oops.
posted by po at 5:11 AM on April 25, 2013


In a paranoid fiction, one could wonder if this was not accidental. That Rio Tinto saw stabilising copper prices and decided to "take some supply offline for a while". But (in the absence of Art Bell) I'll leave that to Jeff Rense and Alex Jones.

Wouldn't it just be easier to just cut a couple of shifts each week rather than costing your company billions in repairs?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:16 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


You don't even have to cut shifts at existing mines. If you think "china has stabilized" at 7% GDP growth you just stop investing in capacity expansions.
posted by JPD at 5:25 AM on April 25, 2013


The landslide went off at about 9:30 in the evening on Wednesday, April 11. It was expected: like most modern mines, Bingham has redundant sensor systems (radar, laser, seismic, GPS) that measure ground movement down to the millimeter and give plenty of warning when a collapse is imminent. The mine was evacuated about 12 hours before the landslide, and nobody was hurt.
I just wanted to call out this paragraph of the article, because SCIENCE.
posted by schmod at 5:50 AM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wouldn't it just be easier to just cut a couple of shifts each week rather than costing your company billions in repairs?

Mine workers are unionized and mines are insured. So maybe not.

I don't think it was really a conspiracy, I just think conspiracy-based speculation is fun.
posted by Western Infidels at 5:53 AM on April 25, 2013


I love me some conspiracy theorizing too, but that's the deal with such theories, the consequences of the supposed actions, if deliberate, are too unpredictable and potentially catestrophic to be rational. What if things don't go the way you predicted?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:37 AM on April 25, 2013


"Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice"

Will Durant (Historian, 1885-1981)
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:44 AM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wouldn't it just be easier to just cut a couple of shifts each week rather than costing your company billions in repairs?

Well... if you wanted to be conspiratorial, you'd point out that the diaster lets Rio Tinto escape from their existing futures contracts (shifts them to their insurers) while just lowering extraction from the mine wouldn't.

I'm not actually advocating that position in any degree of seriousness, but if you wanted to, that's the excuse.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:46 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm stunned that there is an open pit 1.5km deep.

I'd heard about this collapse, but... gods.

Wouldn't it just be easier to just cut a couple of shifts each week rather than costing your company billions in repairs?

There's this thing called The Economy.
Fuck the workers.
Basically.
This is a legit excuse to cover shorting copper and spiking the price for your other operations.
The workers? Act of Godded out of a job. They'll be there when the Supply/Demand curve shifts.
posted by Mezentian at 7:23 AM on April 25, 2013


This is a pretty common "failurature" mode for an open pit copper mine. The ore body is nearly vertical in most cases so cost effective extraction requires steep mine faces. And the surrounding rock is pretty frangible. The old open pit near where I live is going to fail in just this way and the owners will know well in advance because of subsurface siemic monitoring and surface measurement via lasers and GPS. They can tell months in advance when the slump is going to occur because the land first starts shifting by a few thousands of an inch a day.
posted by Mitheral at 7:41 AM on April 25, 2013


The headline and body are in Sorts Mill Goudy, a free and open-source version of Goudy Old Style from 1915.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:25 AM on April 25, 2013


Huh. I guess they didn't want to risk using Copperplate.
posted by Floydd at 8:41 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!
posted by tabubilgirl at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2013


Here's the view I have of the upturned mountains every morning when I wake up. Should be interesting to see how this plays out with the local business friendly community. I'm sure the Governor is bending over backwards to make sure this large engine in our local economy doesn't idle for too long. Another interesting data point that might emerge from this would be the change in air quality for the area. SLC air quality is notoriously nasty and akin to no planes after 9/11, I wonder what the impact (if any) to PM2.5 is.
posted by msbutah at 9:14 AM on April 25, 2013


Western Infidels: "I don't think it was really a conspiracy, I just think conspiracy-based speculation is fun."

Actually, this doesn't seem far fetched at all.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if None of this sounds like batshit crazy conspiracy-theory stuff. It sounds more like the stuff that goes on in the boardrooms of every major financial firm. I doubt the mine engineered the collapse, but it wouldn't at all surprise me if their financial analysts rigged a system that would allow them to modestly profit if it did.

Does the US government have an SEC-like entity that prohibits big mining firms from shorting their own commodities based on proprietary knowledge (a la insider trading)?
posted by schmod at 10:07 AM on April 25, 2013


You wouldn't want to be short, you'd want to be long. Which by definition RIO is.
posted by JPD at 10:32 AM on April 25, 2013


Check out (pre-collapse) satellite imagery of the mine

I highly recommend the topographical view you get on Google Earth (pre-collapse). It's just insane.

The mine was evacuated about 12 hours before the landslide, and nobody was hurt.

I just want to highlight this. That's great, but the evidence of destroyed mobile equipment such as trucks indicates there wasn't quite as much foresight and planning as the company seems to be claiming. What if they'd been wrong by 12 hours (this has happened before)?

In any case, this mine has been around a very long time to get this deep. It was declared a National Historic Landmark nearly half a century ago. That listing notes that it probably didn't have many active years left, though.
posted by dhartung at 1:24 PM on April 25, 2013


It looks like somebody peed on a sandcastle.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:30 PM on April 25, 2013


Zooms out of google maps*
Wow, there's a real place called Twin Peaks!
posted by glasseyes at 6:21 PM on April 25, 2013


dhartung: "That's great, but the evidence of destroyed mobile equipment such as trucks indicates there wasn't quite as much foresight and planning as the company seems to be claiming. "

It's the magnitude of the slump that they mis-estimated not the when or where. At modern mines these sort of events generally don't sneak up on the operators.

It's strange that they left any equipment, especially highly mobile equipment like haul trucks, anywhere near the slump area. There must have been a mechanical yard near the anticipated slump location. It'll be interesting to read the post incident report when it comes out to see what the reasoning was for storing those trucks there.
posted by Mitheral at 9:18 PM on April 25, 2013


BLDGBLOG has more
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:43 PM on April 27, 2013


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