Largest Open Pit Copper Mine in the World Pollutes Utah

 

For at least the last five years, Kennecott Utah Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, violated the federal limits on ore and waste rock production at its Bingham Canyon Mine, the largest open pit copper mine in the world. Kennecott agreed in 1994 to limit production to 150,500,000 tons of ore and waste rock a year at the Bingham Canyon Mine. The EPA approved the limit, and adopted it into federal regulations. Every year since 2006, Rio Tinto violated the production limit, reaching levels up to 192,684,252 in 2009 — more than 40 million tons over the limit, according to data submitted to the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining. The mine is located in western Salt Lake County in the Oquirrh Mountains of Utah.

A coalition of environmental, health and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit in December against Kennecott Copper over Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine. The coalition (WildEarth Guardians, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, and Utah Moms for Clean Air) filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Utah. The lawsuit seeks a ruling that Kennecott violated the CAA, an order that the company comply with the production limit, and the company pays the maximum penalty of $37,500 per violation per day.

Salt Lake County and other counties in the area are currently in violation of federal health limits on particulate matter. The region has some of the worst particulate pollution in the U.S. The American Lung Association ranks the area an “F” for ozone and particulate matter pollution. Salt Lake County is officially classified by the EPA as in “non-attainment” with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

Kennecott’s response to the lawsuit is denial. “We operate within strict provisions established by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Utah Division of Air Quality,” said Kyle Bennett, Kennecott Utah Copper spokesman. “And those limits have been established to protect human health.”

The Utah Division of Air Quality claims that it protects “public health and the environment from the harmful effects of air pollution.” However, the lawsuit makes that claim ring hollow.

Tell the Utah Division of Air Quality what you think. Sign the petition: Clean Up the Bingham County Mine.

 

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Photo credit: Flickr user, Loco Steve

85 comments

David N.
David N.4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

SICK

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush4 years ago

There is never enough to satisfy Big Business.

Alison Baker
Alison Baker4 years ago

Like fracking, strip mining is abhorrent.

Lin Penrose
Lin Penrose4 years ago

I'm wondering about the residents of Utah, a state that had, and is in danger of losing what is left, such wonders of land and life. Why don't they, the residents and neighboring states, stand UP and tell the miners and destroyers, to stop the desecration. The book of supposed wisdom, Pearls of Great Price, surely did not mean the destruction of the earth at any cost, even for growing human consumptions. Nor did/do any of the interpretations of the bible.

Lin Penrose
Lin Penrose4 years ago

I'm wondering about the residents of Utah, a state that had, and is in danger of losing what is left, such wonders of land and life. Why don't they, the residents and neighboring states, stand UP and tell the miners and destroyers, to stop the desecration. The book of supposed wisdom, Pearls of Great Price, surely did not mean the destruction of the earth at any cost, even for growing human consumptions. Nor did/do any of the interpretations of the bible.

Judith Meek
Judith M Meek4 years ago

Sick. It's all about greed & the almighty buck. Utah has some of the most spectacular scenery on this planet. Why destroy it?

Karen Baker
Karen Baker4 years ago

So awful.

Joan Mcallister
4 years ago

The citizens of Utah with the backing of the rest of us needs to standup and say enough is enough, this does not only affect Utah but global warming as well which effects all of us.

Jusemmy A.
Jusemmy Arce4 years ago

So how can the citizens of Utah do something to. Protest this, are most of people even aware that this is occurring. This is the first time I hear of it, it is pretty atrocious the stuff that goes on and one has no clue! How can we stop this!?