Tour of Kennecott Copper
Intermountain Society of American Foresters
Wasatch Front Chapter
May 19, 2000

The Wasatch Front Chapter SAF hosted a tour of Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Copper Mine.  The group viewed the open pit copper mine from the Visitor Center and reclamation work, primarily along foothill areas that had been heavily impacted by turn of the century grazing and unregulated emissions from the old smelter at Magna, Utah.  The current owner, the largest mining corporation in the world, is very supportive of sound environmental management.  Wildland management focuses on vegetation, water, and wildlife.  Paul Rokich, affectionately known by the local media as "The Johnny Appleseed of Bingham Canyon," provided a personalized tour, which began at the Visitor Center and ended overlooking the Great Salt Lake.  Paul refers to himself as "the gardener."  He received technical assistance early in his career from US Forest Service nursery personnel and researchers in the selection of species and planting techniques.
 

Prior to the field trip at the Kennecott visitor center, Paul Rokich (in the tan vest) dicussed phases of reclamation work he has been involved in with SAF members.
The SAF tour began at the Visitor Center overlooking the Bingham Canyon Mine.  From there it proceeded north along the foothills roughly following the tailings and concentrate pipelines to a point just above the power plant overlooking the tailings impoundment .
The tour group made several stops along the way.  This one, near the Copperton Concentrator Plant, overlooked a grain field maintained by Paul as a winter feed ground for elk.  There were no elk to be seen on this day, but there was an old iron bucket on a rock (you had to be there).
Paul took the tour group on a side trip into Coon Canyon to look at revegetation work on lands that were severly impacted by turn of the century grazing and clearcutting.  Commercial timber (Douglas-fir and white fir) went for building materials.  Aspen, gambel oak, and bigtooth maple were clearcut for fuelwood for Salt Lake City.  Trees that Paul plants in the area are primarily Douglas-fir and white fir from locally collected seed.
The foothills overlooking Magna were virtually denuded by a combination of early sheep grazing and toxic emissions from the smelter in Magna.  People said nothing would ever grow there again, but Paul didn't give up.  Much of his work has been to revegetate these lands.  Native species are preferred, but some non-agressive non-native species, such as these California poppies, are used to add a touch of color.
Paul showed the group Little Valley and the revegetation and flood control work that has been accomplished.  The valley sits immediately above Magna, and had previously sent damaging flash flood events into Magna in the 1920's.  Revegetation and terracing has controlled the flashy events, such that there were no flooding problems during the Utah flood years of the early 1980's.
At the final stop of the day Paul pointed out the work being done on the tailings ponds (below).  Paul currently spends much of his time on this portion of his project work. 
On the left, the green fields were tailings ponds last year.  The ponds were "pinched off" and planted to grasses.  Cattle and wildlife now graze the area.  To the right of the green fields are active tailings ponds.  In the background is Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.  Various tree species are also used to vegetate the tailings ponds, including Salix and Populus species and occasionally tamarisk on very difficult sites.  The vegetated tailings ponds provide habitat for many species of wetland birds as well.