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What is the biggest man-made hole in the world?

Perhaps you’d think of the silver mines of South Africa. Or the excavations surrounding the Channel Tunnel between England and France. But, those holes pale into insignificance when compared to a man-made wonder to be found at Bingham Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah. Alongside the Oquirahh Mountain Range, a huge slash of pale yellow ochre stands out in stark contrast to the darker color of the surrounding mountains. These are the diggings and terraces of the Kennecoot Copper Mine – the world’s biggest man-made hole.

The actual pit itself is half a mile deep and has a diameter of more than two and a half miles. This hole is so deep that the Sears Tower would barely reach half way up it’s walls. Apparently this hole is so large that it can be seen from the Space Shuttle Yet, the mining company intends to go down another 850 feet.

The mine looks like a giant amphitheatre with 50 foot high terraces that step down to the depths of the abyss below. The Bingham Canyon mine was started in 1906. At that time Daniel Jackling’s Utah Copper Company began mining ore that contained only 2 percent copper. Today, the percentage of copper to ore has reduced right down to 0.6 percent. Since it’s opening 5 billion tons of rock have been moved at the mine. As well as copper – gold and silver have also been produced. In fact, the Bingham Canyon Mine produces 500,000 ounces of gold and 4,000,000 ounces of silver each year. Yet, these are only by-products of the main industry – copper extraction.

The mine is only the first step in the copper extraction process. It is where the drilling, blasting, loading and hauling take place. The ore is then taken to an in-pit ore crusher. From here it is transported to a concentration and flotation plant where the concentration of copper is increased from0.6 to 28 percent. Next the copper is smelted and then refined. This gives the copper a final purity of 99.98 percent. The copper is turned into large cathodes, 330 pound plates of copper that are then sold to the manufacturers of copper, brass and bronze products.

So, the next time you pick up a copper utensil or piece of wiring remember that it may well have come from the biggest man-made hole in the world – the Kennecott Copper Mine.