Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kennecott Making Efforts To Improve Seismic Stability Of Tailings Slope

Brian Grimmett
Rio Tinto Kennecott Tailings Manager, Paula Daughty, points out the potential impact a major earthquake would have on their tailings pile.

Rio Tinto Kennecott will soon begin work on a project aimed at preparing the south slope of their tailings impoundment for a major earthquake.

Rio Tinto Kennecott has been transporting tailings to the area just north of SR-201 near Magna for more than 100 years and that’s created a mound of dirt several hundred acres in area and more than 100 feet high. Tailings are what’s left over after all of the valuable metals have been extracted from ore taken from the Bingham Canyon Mine. It’s essentially dirt and water. And while the water is no longer on the surface, there is still plenty of it underground that could destabilize the south slope of the impoundment during a major earthquake.

“It is predicted that we could see some material being deposited on both the East and the West lanes of 201," Paula Doughty says. "So, the project that we’re here to talk about today is, we want to get it so nothing will end up off of Kennecott’s property.”

Doughty is the manager of tailings and water services for Kennecott. She says starting next week they’ll begin constructing 12 wells about 60 – 70 feet in depth that will pump the water out of the soil.

“Our goal is to draw down the water table an additional 10 – 15 feet and that is slated and predicted to stabilize the slope,” she says.

If the pilot project works, they plan on constructing an additional 92 wells at a cost of almost $27 million dollars. Once fully operational, they expect to reach their goal in two years. 

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.