Sunday, June 24, 2012

King Copper

Natural State

Freeport-McMoran’s open pit copper mine in Morenci, Arizona is the largest in North America and one of the largest in the world.  The monster mine produces 650,000 tons a day of copper.  I tried to visualize its immensity and decided I’d have to see it for myself.  So I took the long way back to Taos from Tucson for the grand unveiling.  I was blown away. 
According to Google Maps the mine is the about the size of Manhattan; a slash in the earth that is a mile deep and measures eight miles north to south and four miles across at its widest point.  That’s 32 square miles sports fans.  It’s a Seven Wonders of the World phenomenon employing thousands of workers and using high rise earth movers that look like insects across the great pit.  The tires alone dwarf a human being.  The tops of mountains have been excavated to reveal brown earth rich with copper and gold.  Terraced amphitheaters laced with roads are dug, the dirt sifted and separated for its precious bounty. 

The Morenci of today is actually a new town built to house miners displaced by the ever expanding mine.  The company owns the whole shebang including workers houses that adorn an earthen cirque.

More to come  There's one hell of a story here.

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