After 21/2 years of construction and $400 million spent, the modernization project at Kennecott Utah Copper, a division of BP Minerals America, will be shown to VIPs and the news media Sept. 23.
The first event to mark the work completion will be a reception Sept. 22 at 5 p.m. in the Little America Hotel. On Sept. 23 there will be a buffet breakfast and briefing at Little America at 8 a.m., a bus trip to the mine, a tour of the new facilities, a ceremony and a luncheon.BP Minerals officials announced the $400 million modernization project in December 1985 as a means of remaining competitive in the world copper market. Actual construction and site preparation began in February 1986.
Although the company has spent large amounts of money on the modernization project, some of the old ways of extracting copper remain. These include the usual blasting of the copper ore and overburden from the side of the pit and loading of the material by large electric shovels into large diesel trucks.
The overburden will be disposed in the usual way. But instead of the truck drivers dumping their copper ore into railroad cars for a trip out of the mine, the ore is dumped into a new crushing unit built about one-third the way up the side of the pit.
This will eliminate the use of the railroad cars.
A 60-inch gyratory crusher reduces the ore to pieces not larger than 8 to 10 inches in diameter. From the crusher, the ore falls onto a conveyor belt that is 72 inches wide with a capacity of 10,000 tons per hour. Powering the conveyor belt is the first of five transfer stations where 1,500-horsepower electric motors are mounted.
The transfer stations are several stories high and contain many tons of steel to support the belt and the huge motors. The stations are needed when the belt changes direction. The material drops off one section of the belt and onto another section heading in a slightly different direction.
After the conveyor belt emerges from the railroad tunnel, it heads overland another two miles toward the new concentrator building. Along the route, the belt is cradled on large rollers to help the belt and the heavy copper ore ride smoothly.
Near the end of the ride, the belt takes a dip in a small valley and then begins an upward climb toward a stockpiling area. The stockpile can hold between 350,000 and 400,000 tons of material beneath an open-air A-frame structure of steel and concrete.
From the bottom of the stockpile, the copper ore drops by gravity onto three large belts that carry the material inside the new concentrator. Inside the building the material is ground into a material with the consistency of face powder, mixed with water and carried to the smelter west of Magna in a new slurry line.
A second pipeline will carry the tailings from the concentrator to the tailings pond where the water is extracted and recycled through a waterline that goes back to the concentrator.