Barney's Canyon Gold Mine

This page last updated on June 9, 2023.

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Kennecott opened the Barney's Canyon Mine in the Oquirrh Mountains during the fall of 1989. The original design capacity was 80,000 ounces annually of gold and the capital cost was $32 million. Production during 1999 was 112,000 ounces, up from 83,000 ounces during 1998.

There were two pits. One was the Melco pit, at 7,700 feet near the top of the Oquirrh mountains. The other, the Barney's Canyon pit, two miles to the northeast.

The ore was mined by blasting and loaded into 80-ton haulage trucks using front-end loaders, then hauled by trucks to a crusher. Then moved by stepped conveyor belts to piles "heaps" in layers 17 feet deep. Sprinklers then sprayed very weak and diluted cyanide solution onto the heaps. The heaps were placed in depressions lined with polyethylene sheet to prevent the solution from entering the ground water. After percolating through the heaps of crushed ore, the solution was rich in dissolved metals, and was gathered at the base of the heaps and pumped to a holding pond.

The Barney's Canyon gold mine was closed in 2001 and the mined area reclaimed. The heap leach piles remained in place until 2007, and the leach pile areas were reclaimed starting in 2008. The reclamation of the entire area continued through 2020.

The following comes from "Selected Mining Districts of Utah" published in 2005 by the Utah Geological Society.

The Barneys Canyon and Melco gold deposits, located north of the Bingham Canyon mine, were initially found in 1878, but the significance was unrecognized. Sampling was conducted in 1968-69 at an old mine dump in Barneys Canyon that returned values of 0.10 to 0.20 ounces of gold per ton. Drilling on the Barneys Canyon deposit began in 1985 and the deposit was discovered on the third hole. In 1986, drilling began on the Melco deposit and the ore body was discovered on the first hole. Mining began at Barneys Canyon and Melco deposits in 1989 and continued until late 2001.

From the public legal notice published in newspapers on July 11, 1988.

Proposed Barney's Canyon Cyanide Gold Leach protect; submitted by B.P. Minerals America. B.P. Minerals is subsidiary of British Petroleum, the current owner of the Kennecott operation. The proposed project is located on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley just north of the Kennecott Copper Bingham pit, and will use cyanide to leach gold from low grade ore.

Low grade gold ore from the Barney's Canyon and Melco Mines will be placed on a heap leach pad in the foothills north of Barney's Canyon. The pad will be built with an approved liner system consisting of a process solution (leaching fluid) collection system, a flexible membrane liner, a clay liner, a leak detection system and prepared base.

The process solutions containing gold bearing solutions will be conveyed via a double lined pipe to the process solution ponds. The process solution ponds have an approved liner system consisting of a flexible membrane liner, a leak detection system, a clay liner and a prepared base. The process solutions are pumped from the pond to a plant for removal of the gold. The plant will have facilities to totally contain any spill or leakage from pipes and vessels.

The system is designed to protect ground water supplies which furnish domestic water for Copperton, West Jordon and Taylorsville-Bennion.

From the 1996 Mine Reclamation Plan, from the files of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (Permit M0350009; M/035/009)

Kennecott Barneys Canyon Mining Company, operates an open pit gold mine and heap leach process facility known as the Barneys Canyon mine. The project mines and processes approximately 2,600,000 tons of ore per year at an average rate of 7,000 tons per day (TPD). The principal project components are the Barneys, Melco, East Barneys and BC North and South open pit mines and related mine waste dumps and a processing plant. The processing plant consists of screening, conveying, ore crushing and agglomerating facilities, a number of heap leach pads, a leachate processing plant and refinery, and offices and shops.

Kennecott commenced mineral exploration on the project in 1981, with drilling beginning in 1985. A total of 215 exploration drill holes ranging in depth from 35 to 976 feet were drilled using rotary reverse circulation and diamond core drilling machines.

Kennecott submitted a Notice of Intent (NOI) to Commence mining operations to tie Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) in February, 1988. The NOI was revised in September 1989, again in March 1994. The area being proposed for this amendment is directly adjacent to the study area of the original environmental evaluations.

Kennecott commenced construction of the Barney Canyon Mine in the third quarter of 1988 leading to gold production in the third quarter of 1989.

Kennecott obtained approval from DOGM in December 1992 to modify its Barneys Canyon mining operations beginning in the first quarter of 1993. The modification involved development and operation of two new open pit mines and expansion of the Melco open pit mine. Process plant facilities, ancillary facilities, and mine service facilities were not affected by the changes. The principal project components were the South BC South, the North BC South, and Melco open pit mines and related mine waste dumps and haulage roads. Pre-stripping of topsoil in the BC South area began in the fourth quarter of 1992 and mining commenced in February of 1993. The finalized version of a combined Notice Of Intent was submitted to DOGM in December 1993.

Kennecott intends to modify its Barneys Canyon mining operations by expanding the size and depth of the North BC South and Melco pits, by creating a series of waste dumps north of the current Melco pit, by redesigning the permitted 7200 dump to improve drainage and by constructing a haul road from the north side of the expanded Melco Pit to the North BC South pit.

This latest revision includes the East Barneys project consisting of a small pit and the associated haul roads. The East Barneys waste will be taken to the Barneys Canyon Pit as backfill. Prestripping for this project is to begin in the first quarter of 1997.


July 1988
BP Minerals America had applied for the necessary permits to begin mining gold at its Barney's Canyon and Melco mines, four miles north of the Bingham Canyon copper mine. Raw ore was to be sprayed with cyanide solution to leach out the minerals, and the leached material would be processed at a proposed new facility. When in full operation, the new gold mine was expected to produce 70,000 ounces of gold per year. The company currently produced 300,000 ounces of gold each year from its Bingham Canyon mine. (Deseret News, July 13, 1988)

July 20, 1988
Kennecott Explorations (Australia) Ltd. filed with the State of Utah, a reclamation bond in the amount of $2.7 million, covering 707.3 acres.

February 1989
Removal of overburden preparing the site of the Melco pit, started in February 1989 and mining commenced in October 1989.

March 27, 1991
"At start-up, Barney's Canyon yielded about 100,000 ounces of gold a year. That will drop to about 80,000 ounces a year until the mine is closed about six years from now [1997]" (Wisconsin State Journal, March 27, 1991)

September 14, 1992
The permit for the Barney's Canyon gold mine was revised. The public notice stated, in part:

During Operations -- The operator [Kennecott] will continue to mine gold ore using typical open pit mining methods. The operator will create two new pits, the North Barney's Canyon South Pit (6.3 acres) and the Barney's Canyon South Pit (20.1 acres) The existing Melco haul road will be expanded (28 acres). The existing Melco Pit will be expanded (63.9 acres), and the Melco waste dumps will be expanded (59 acres). Topsoil salvage and storage will take place prior to mine development. Gold ore is processed on-site using heap leaching technology. Kennecott will mine its current ore reserves through 1997.

Following Operations -- The operator will reclaim approximately 140 acres of the total 218 acres, addressed under this revision. Pit highways will not be reclaimed. The South Barney's Canyon South Pit will be partially back filled. Accessible pit benches will be reclaimed. Regrading, re-topsoiling and revegetation will take place on waste dumps and roads. An exception to this will be portions of the Melco dumps which will be re-vegetated only.

January 3, 1995
The operation of the Barney's Canyon gold mine was transferred from Kennecott Corporation, to Kennecott Barneys Canyon Mining Company.

December 16, 2001
Kennecott ended its mining and ore crushing operations of the Barney's Canyon gold mine. Gold recovery would continue from the heap leach operations for another four or five years, until about 2006. Reclamation of the mined areas had been concurrent with mine expansion, and the mines were expected to be fully reclaimed by 2002. Final reclamation of the heap leach pads and surface facilities was planned to be completed by 2008. Since 1989 a total of 1.3 million ounces had been recovered. (Tooele Transcript-Bulletin, October 18, 2001)

October 23, 2018
The following comes from the October 23, 2018 issue of the Deseret News.

Located on the east slope of the Oquirrh Mountains, 5 miles north of the Bingham Canyon Mine, the Barney's Canyon Mine operated from 1989 to 2013 and produced more than 2 million ounces of gold. Toward the end of the life cycle, the company began transitioning to the reclamation process in preparation for the eventual discontinuation of active mining.

The Barney's Canyon operation consisted of rotary drills, front-end loaders and 85-ton haul trucks, crushing and conveying equipment, milling, heap leaching, gold recovery and refining plants.

Reclamation is underway on the five heap leach pads — enormous mounds of earth — that involves soil remediation, extending liners and relaxing the slope of the heap leach pads. Additional reclamation efforts include installing additional storm water controls, removing existing buildings and re-vegetating the area.

The reclamation that was performed around the mine and adjacent areas covered 850 acres, with work starting on the final stages of reclamation over 350 acres.

The final cost for reclamation efforts in Barney's Canyon will be more than $50 million and it is expected to be completed in early 2020.

To date, more than 800 trees and shrubs have been planted that are native to the area and will be visible throughout the Salt Lake Valley, including Rocky Mountain maple, Gambel oak, Saskatoon serviceberry, Woods rose, mountain mahogany and bitterbrush.