My view: Kennecott good corporate neighbor

By Gary C. Curtis

Published: Thursday, April 14 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

I have lived in Copperton for 62 years and worked at the Bingham Canyon Mine for 47 years as an employee, supervisor and contractor.

Perhaps my health has been jeopardized because of the personal choices I have made throughout my life, but not from living in a mining community or working in a mining environment. I truly believe my personal health has not been compromised because I chose to work at the Bingham Canyon Mine and live within a stone's throw of the mining operation. I am a responsible individual; I would not have brought my wife to and raised my three sons in a community that would endanger their health.

Many residents of our community who lived in Bingham Canyon, Lark and Copperton have lived well into their 80s and 90s. Some residents have lived to see 100. My father and mother came to Bingham Canyon in 1926. My mother was 91 when she passed away and she lived in the communities of Bingham Canyon and Copperton from 1926 to 2001. Her death certificate indicated she died from causes incident to age, not from breathing unclean air from the Bingham Canyon Mine. My father died at age 68. His death certificate indicated he died from a heart attack brought on because of the years he suffered from diabetes. Many of my co-workers who worked at the mine for 30 and 40 years are in their 70s and 80s.

Several years ago, an air-monitoring station was placed at the west end of Copperton. The readings from this station have not revealed large amounts of fugitive dust particles that would endanger the residents. In fact, our air is much cleaner than other areas of the Wasatch Front stretching from Cache County to the north to Utah County to the south. During late spring and early summer, drive along 118th South, the Old Bingham Highway, the New Bingham Highway and along U-111 and see the dust that is created from dry-land farmers as they till the soil. During the winter months as the temperature inversion covers the Salt Lake Valley, I would invite anyone to visit the community of Copperton and breathe some of the clean air we enjoy. When I leave Copperton, I can see the smog that engulfs the valley. The majority of this smog is not from the Bingham Canyon Mine but from all the automobiles and other industries throughout the valley.

Rio Tinto/Kennecott has sponsored several open houses throughout the valley. I attended one of the open houses along with other residents of Copperton. We had the opportunity to view the proposed Cornerstone Project and ask representatives of Rio Tinto/Kennecott questions regarding the project and voice our concerns.

I have witnessed firsthand the professionalism with which Rio Tinto/Kennecott mined the Giant Leap Project on the east side of the Bingham Canyon Mine. The majority of the overburden from this project was transported by haulage trucks and dumped down Bingham Canyon, within 1.5 miles of our community. Rio Tinto/Kennecott has always maintained an open door policy and encouraged the Copperton Community Council and residents to contact them if there are concerns. These concerns have been addressed in a timely manner.

I have watched as Rio Tinto/Kennecott spent millions of dollars to contour and hydro-seed the old east side rail dumps. Now in the spring and summer our community and the rest of the west side of the Salt Lake Valley can see a colorful display of native vegetation. Upon completion of the Giant Leap Project, Rio Tinto/Kennecott has spent millions of dollars and countless hours using earth-moving equipment to contour the Bingham Canyon dump area. Most of the work is now complete, and once again our community will see a colorful display of native vegetation on the dump area.

If Rio Tinto/Kennecott secures the necessary permits and continues the Cornerstone Project, I am positive it will continue to be an excellent neighbor and operate the Bingham Canyon Mine in a professional and ethical manner and remain in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Utah Division of Air Quality rules and regulations.

Gary C. Curtis chairs the Copperton Community Council.

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