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Rio Tinto Kennecott Opens Major Mine Access Road Six Months Ahead of Schedule

Rio Tinto Kennecott has opened a major access road, restoring full access to Bingham Canyon mine. Kennecott officials say the opening comes months ahead of schedule, but they say it will still take about two years to restore the mine to normal operations.

Where once there was a massive slide, now a road cuts through. Trucks as big as houses motor along back and forth from the mine. Matt Lengerich General Manager of the Bingham Canyon Mine, says it was no small feat to build the new mine access ramp.

“The mine access ramp is our lifeblood. It is not unfair to compare it to the I-15 corridor right through the Salt Lake valley," he says. "It is critical to our safe and productive operations. When this ramp was cut in the mainfay slide event, we anticipated that it would take until the first quarter of 2014 to repair the ramp. Today, we’ve achieved that milestone almost six months ahead of schedule, a tremendous achievement.”

With the help of remote controlled equipment, crews moved nearly 6 million tons of material to construct the road. Langerich says no one has ever seen a landslide of this magnitude in a mine. He doesn’t expect to be back to normal operation levels until 2016.

“We do have a significant amount of material in the bottom of our pit that has to be removed and that will take some time," he says. "We will work to remove those constraints, and we’ll work to make sure that we can go as fast as possible, but those are big challenges ahead of us."

While the mine is on its way to full operation, the popular visitor’s center may not return in the same form as it was before the slide. Lengerich says they view it as an opportunity to find ways to improve the visitor experience.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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