I've been critical of mining (open pit especially) due to the environmental impact, but I had never been to an open pit mine. I love industrial tours. So when we were in the area and had an opportunity to visit the mine and take a tour, I was all over it. The tour runs in a small bus and takes about an hour. It was fascinating from start to finish. There were only four of us on the tour so we had ample time to ask questions of our guide (a retired employee), and every question was answered in detail. Seeing the massive scale of the open pits, and the piles of tailings that go on for miles did not make me any less critical of mining, but now I am a more informed critic :) And I accept that I use copper, so unless I come up with a better way to get it out of the ground, I need to temper my judgement.
The processing facility where copper is extracted from crushed rock was the best part. The methodology is a simple concept but they have applied advanced engineering to the process to make it cost effective. I was amazed to learn that the copper content of the rock is less than 1% and yet it is still cost effective to mine it at this location.
The shop at the visitor center has a lot of crafts made from copper and stone. The museum portion has short videos describing what you will see on the tour, plus some of the processing steps that occur at other locations. Highly recommend for anyone interested in mining, geology, industrial processes, or engineering.
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