I’ve just finished my first week out here in Salt Lake City, Utah, working as an Intern Process Engineer at the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine with Rio Tinto.
They have given me this fantastic opportunity to gain practical experience of the mining industry to complement my Chemical Engineering studies at Imperial College.
Situated in Salt Lake Valley, the surrounding mountains provide Salt Lake City with a stunning backdrop on both the eastern and western sides. The picture was taken north of Downtown Salt Lake City and gives a view down through the whole valley. The Bingham Canyon Mine is situated to the right of this picture, approximately 18 miles away, and on that clear day it could be seen with the naked eye.
The Bingham Canyon Mine has been in operation since 1906 and is one of the most productive mines in the world. The mine has produced over seventeen million tons of copper, and the open pit is now over half a mile deep. My work at the mine is based at the Chalcopyrite Heap Leaching Plant, aiming to deliver value from lower grade ores.
In short, we take a heap of ore containing relatively small amounts of copper and pour sulphuric acid over it, to try and extract as much of the copper as possible. During my first week at work, I was required to attend a Mine Safety Training Course provided by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
MSHA is a federal body here in the USA that works to ensure the safe operation of all mines within the States. After the three days of training I was rewarded with the three certificates below and am now able to work at Metal, Non-Metal and Coal Surface Mine operations here in the USA. (Subject to further on-site task specific training, of course!)
Rio Tinto have provided me with a rental car, well… a truck (see picture), during my time here in Salt Lake City, which has been very useful for getting around and exploring the Valley.
Last weekend a friend came to visit me and together we headed up to the Wasatch Mountains in the Big Cottonwood Canyon (on the eastern side of the valley) and ate at a great seafood boil restaurant called Bucket o’ Crawfish!
Next week at work I will be analysing drill sample data obtained from the heap. I will also be starting some work on bacterial adaptation and scale-up processes. I will keep you updated on how that all develops in due course!