Kennecott Ore Haulage
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This page was last updated on May 8, 2022.
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(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
Between 1911 and 1948, ore was moved from the Bingham Canyon mine to the mills at Magna by way of the steam-powered Bingham & Garfield Railway, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Utah Copper (and later Kennecott Copper).
(Read more about the Bingham & Garfield Railway)
Ore Delivery Department became Ore Haulage Department. (Kennecott Historical Index)
The cross-canyon connection was completed (at the site of the old Yampa Smelter) between the new 6040-Tunnel and the new Ore Haulage Central Yard, near Dry Fork. Two short tunnels are built through the fill to cross over the highway and the Denver & Rio Grande Western line. (Kennecott Historical Index)
This new line allowed ore to be brought out of the mine by way of the new 6040 tunnel, then to a new yard that was served by the Bingham & Garfield by way of a new connection to the B&G mainline. This new yard later became the site of the Dry Fork shops.
The 6040-Tunnel was completed; 3,975 feet long. (Kennecott Historical Index)
May 8, 1946
Construction of new Copperton low line began. (Kennecott Historical Index)
January 1, 1947
Utah Copper Company became the Utah Copper Division of Kennecott Copper Corporation. (Kennecott Historical Index)
The CC line was completed, for connection to the new Copperton low line. (Kennecott Historical Index)
The 'CC Line' was the connection between the mine tracks at the cross-canyon fill to the new Central yard completed in 1943, and the new assembly yard planned for the new Copperton Low-Line.
April 1, 1948
Limited operations began on the Copperton Low Line, for training purposes.
April 30, 1948
Bingham & Garfield operations cease. (Kennecott Historical Index)
May 2, 1948
New Copperton low line began operation. The maximum grade for the new line was 1.35 percent while the maximum grade of the Bingham & Garfield was 2.5 percent. The lower gradient of the new line allowed longer trains and therefore more ore to be delivered to the mills. Seven 3,000 hp electric locomotives were purchased for service on the new Copperton line; enough to operate the low line trains and to provide locomotives for the car dumpers at the two mills. To allow the new locomotives to be used on the car dumpers, the dumper yards at Magna and Arthur were converted from 600 volts DC to 3,000 volts DC (the same as the Copperton low line) and the three 85-ton (numbers 737, 738, 740) and single 100-ton (number 600) were reassigned to the Bingham pit. Number 600 was renumbered to 765 upon reassignment.
About midway, where today's 5400 South crossed the line, a passing siding was built to allow trains moving in opposite directions to pass each other. The siding was named 'Cyprus', named for D. C. Jackling's private car, itself named for the Mediterranean island where the Romans and Greeks first began mining copper in ancient times. Jackling founded Utah Copper in 1903, and was president of Utah Copper until he retired in 1942, clearing the way for Kennecott's full takeover of the Bingham property. Jackling retired to the San Francisco Bay area, where he died in 1956.
April 9, 1951
A new record was set while working on the new 5840 tunnel. Crews of Utah Construction Company, the contractor for the job, completed digging 805 feet in 27 work days, beating the previous record set on the same job, of 775 feet during 27 work days. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 9, 1951)
June 30, 1951
Bingham & Garfield was "liquidated", corporation dissolved. (Kennecott Historical Index)
The 5840-Tunnel in completed and placed in service. The tunnel was 7,000 feet long. Tracklaying in the tunnel began in January and was completed in March. Construction had begun in April 1951. (Kennecott Historical Index)
"Every day of the year," the 350 employees of Kennecott's Ore Haulage Department moved 965 cars of copper ore, each loaded with 90 tons of ore. (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 22, 1953, Utah Copper Division advertisement)
March 26, 1953
First ore trains operated through the new 5840-Tunnel. (Kennecott Historical Index)
Statistics for the Ore Haulage "Copperton low line" for 1954 show that the average locomotive made 1,237.9 trips; the average train was 64.46 cars long; and total tonnage for the year was 41,078,212 tons. 311,924,300 tons had been hauled since start up in May 1948.
Eighty percent of all ore mined was moved through the 6040 and 5840-Tunnels. (Kennecott Historical Index)
January 17, 1957
First waste train used 5840-Tunnel. (Kennescope, February 1957)
March 6, 1959
Kennecott announced that the new 18,000-foot tunnel at the 5490-level had been completed. Work had started on October 30, 1956. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 7, 1959)
November 21, 1960
The new 5490 tunnel was completed in March 1959 to a point 150 feet lower than the current bottom level of the open pit mine. In June 1960, Morrison Knudsen began construction of a spiral cut to take railroad tracks down to the new tunnel's Bingham portal. Kennecott was installing permanent railroad track inside the newly completed tunnel. The spiral cut was to be 3600 feet long, at a finished grade of 4 percent. Because the spiral cut was in the actual ore body, the MK earth movers, at 20 cubic yards and 40 tons with each load, were moving the ore to a stockpile on the east side of the mine's bottom level, at a rate of 18,000 yards per day. Kennecott shovels were then loading the ore into trains, with the operation furnishing about one third of the mine's daily production. (Deseret News, November 21, 1960)
May 7, 1961
First ore train used the new 5490-Tunnel, seven weeks after "breakthrough" of the tunnel into the pit. The train was loaded with ore that had been stockpiled from the excavation in the pit for the tunnel portal. (Kennescope magazine, June 1961, page 26; with small photo of empty ore train being pulled by locomotive 869 exiting tunnel)
Ore Haulage began ore car construction program, using jigs and all welded construction. (Kennecott Historical Index)
Kennecott's Magna car shop completed 160 new ore cars in just 7-1/2 months as part of the expansion program. (Kennescope, July-August 1966, page 6; the quantity indicates that the shop forces had completed five cars per week, or about one car per day.)
New Bonneville crusher was placed into partial operation. (Kennescope, September/October 1966)
During March 1972, while talking to Jay Richardson in his office, the following information was shared:
- Jay Richardson was head of Kennecott's Ore Haulage Division
- One thousand 100-ton ore cars were in service
- Each ore car was making an average of 118 trips per month
- There were 18 trains per day on the Ore Haulage mainline
- Each train used two locomotives and one caboose
- Each two-unit locomotive consist made six trips between daily inspections
- Three shifts each with two crews operating two trains
- Each crew made three trips between the mine and one of the three mills
- There were seven cabooses in service
- Bingham & Garfield Railway was the second railroad to receive Centralized Traffic Control by General Railway Signal Company
- The Bonneville mill received about 300 cars of copper ore per day.
During the early 1970s, the smaller ore trains of 18 to 20 cars from the mine were gathered at Copperton into larger trains of 70 to 80 cars. These larger trains were then moved to the Magna mills by the 400 class mainline electrics. After the twelve and a half miles to Magna was covered, the mainline trains entered the dumper yards at either Magna, Arthur, or Bonneville, where the dumper engines from Chino pushed the trains through the rotary car dumpers, and the empties were returned to Bingham.
Also during the early 1970s, the two GE 70-ton locomotives were used at the Precipitation Plant at Copperton. The four 900 class locomotives were used in local-type service between the Magna, Arthur, and Bonneville mills, at the Refinery above the town of Garfield, and at the Garfield Smelter. Specific assignments were: no. 901 and 903 alternated on the "Smelter Run" which moved concentrate between the mills and the Garfield Smelter, and copper ingots between the smelter and the Refinery; no. 902 was used as the yard switcher at Magna; and no. 904 was in charge of the "Garfield Local" which moved the finished copper from the Refinery to the Union Pacific connection at their station of Garfield.
An article about railroads in Utah showed traffic figures for Kennecott's private electrified railroad as being 1,196 cars moved per day, with about 85 tons in each car. A average of 108,000 tons were moved every day. "Kennecott officials claim their road to be the one of the world's busiest." (Deseret News, July 22, 1972)
December 4, 1978
The first of Kennecott's eight new EMD SD40-2 locomotives went into service on the rail line between Copperton and Magna. The first two units were received and put into service. Ten days later, two additional units were delivered and entered service the next day. The remaining three units were delivered very soon after, and entered service immediately.
January 12, 1979
Electric power was cut off to the Ore Haulage catenary; dumpers and road trains were completely dieselized. (Ore Haulage logbook)
In 1983, the entire mine was converted to shovel and truck mining. Rail haulage was used for reload only, at the 6040, 5840, and 5490-Tunnel levels. The last rail and shovel mining took place between the 5540 and 5990 levels. Prior to the end of 1983 there were 42 truck haulage levels, 36 above the 5990-Level and six below the 5490-Level. The 11 rail haulage levels were between the 5490-Level and the 6040-Level. By this time there was very little ore left above the 6040-Level and all operations were concerned with removal of waste to allow ore mining in the lower levels.
The last electrics were removed from ore haulage service in the Bingham pit with the arrival of the third order of seven high-cab GP39-2s in October 1980. After that, the last 13 electric locomotives (85-ton electrics 700 and 703, 90-ton electrics 761 and 762, and 125-ton electrics 766-773, and 778) were only used occasionally as standby units, and for maintenance trains until late 1982 or early 1983. All were either retired and scrapped by late 1983, or donated to museums for preservation.
In 1981, Kennecott had 7,400 employees in Utah, with an annual payroll of $250 million. By June 1984, after a series of layoffs that started in February 1982, the company had 4,400 employees, a reduction of 3,000 jobs. A further reduction of 2,000 jobs was announced on June 15, 1984, reducing Kennecott's payroll down to 2,400 jobs in stages through July and August 1984. Production was to be scaled back from 200,000 tons of copper per year, down to 60,000 tons of copper per year. The cutback of production was forced due to the plunging prices of metals, due mostly to cheap foreign imports. (Deseret News, June 16, 1984)
July 1, 1984
Kennecott laid off 1,795 workers on July 1, 1984. (Deseret News, July 13, 1984); 2,000 workers (two-thirds of workforce) were laid off. (Deseret News, March 26, 1985)
July 1, 1984
Ore Haulage Department was shut down and the organization was dissolved. Ore trains were to be operated by the mine crews. (Ore Haulage logbook)
September 4, 1984
Former Ore Haulage crews transferred to the mine began the operation of ore trains to Bonneville crusher, using mine locomotives. Trains were moving 35,000 tons per day, using 400 ore cars. (Strack, 1984 research notes)
Copper production at Bingham took about 1,200 to 1,400 cars of copper ore to produce about 20 cars of concentrate for the smelter. Kennecott's Chino operation was sending about 10 cars of concentrate per day to the Utah smelter. (Strack, 1984 research notes)
Kennecott announced that it would close down and lay off 2,200 employees in Utah, beginning on March 31. Another 1,100 employees were to be laid off on April 30. (Deseret News, March 26, 1985)
April 30, 1985
Bingham Canyon Mine operations were shut down.
Magna, Arthur, and Bonneville Mill operations were shut down.
Bingham Canyon Mine resumed operations.
Kennecott reopened the Bonneville crusher and Magna concentrator mill. (Deseret News, January 3, 1989)
The Garfield smelter was scheduled to reopen in August 1987, and the Garfield refinery was scheduled to reopen in September 1987. (Deseret News, December 14, 1986)
Smelter produced its first cathode of Utah copper, after reopening of mine.
June 30, 1989
The sale of Kennecott Utah Copper, a unit of BP Minerals America, was sold to RTZ, following the approval of the sale by RTZ shareholders in London. (Deseret News, June 16, 1989)
After being closed since 1984, the Arthur concentrator complex was demolished during 1991. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 11, 2007) (The adjacent Magna concentrator was closed in 2001, and demolished in 2007)
Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation (KUCC) became a unit of RTZ Corporation (England). It is reported that a new smelter would be built with a completion date set for 1995. At present, 40 percent of the mine's output is exported for processing. The new smelter will change the amount shipped out for processing. (Wall Street Journal, March 12, 1992)
Kennecott's 300,000-tons-per-year copper smelter had been completed by mid April 1995 and began its testing phase, with limited production expected to begin in May, and full production by July. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 1995; April 16, 1995)
June 2, 1997
RTZ Corporation changed its name to Rio Tinto. (Rio Tinto press release dated June 2, 1997)
March 19, 2000
The last ore train was operated from the last reload site inside the mine, through the 5840 tunnel, down the remaining rail corridor in old Bingham Canyon to Copperton yard. After that date, all ore was loaded at the new Dry Fork reload site, outside of the mine. (Louie Cononelos, email dated December 27, 2011)
During May 2001, there were three or four trains per day between the mine and the mills. (Steve Ellis, Trainorders.com, May 21, 2001)
May 30, 2001
The last ore train was moved from the Dry Fork reload site at Bingham, to the Bonneville crusher. All later moves over the former Ore Haulage mainline were to transport new sections of the conveyor belt between the rail interchange with Union Pacific at Garfield, and Copperton, where Kennecott was gathering supplies for conveyor maintenance. (Ken DeLuca, email dated December 27, 2011, citing an earlier internal document compiled on September 5, 2008)
June 1, 2001
Kennecott shut down the original Magna mill. In its news release dated May 25, 2001, Kennecott gave the reason for the closure as a reduction of operating costs and improved efficiencies. During 2000, Kennecott had shipped 30,000 tons of copper concentrate to independent refineries and smelters because its mills were producing more concentrate than Kennecott could process in its Garfield smelter. (Kennecott news release, dated May 25, 2001)
In June 2001, operations at the North Concentrator Complex had been temporarily suspended, but on November 27, 2001, Kennecott Utah Copper announced that it would close the North Concentrator Complex permanently.
"Milling operations at the North (Bonneville/Magna) concentrator were suspended in June 2001 and it was permanently closed in December 2001, due to high operating costs and low copper prices." (David F. Briggs, Mining Operations Report, Bingham Canyon, June 2005)
With the closure of the North Concentrator Complex at Magna at the end of 2001, Kennecott also ended its own own rail operations. All rail operations in the Magna and Garfield area were out-sourced to a private contractor, using locomotives that Kennecott sold to the contractor. (Salt Lake Tribune May 11, 2007)
(Demolition of the Magna concentrator complex began in April 2007. On May 11, 2007, work began to remove overhead flume and pipeline that carried tailings over State Route 201.)
March 26, 2002
All rail switching operations were assumed under a contract awarded to Railworks. From that date, Railworks was responsible to deliver rail cars to Copperton, including cars with new conveyor belt segments for the conveyor belt refurbishment project. They also made several trips per month unrelated to the belt cars. On December 11, 2003, a separate contract line item was added for Rail Link to operate "extra switching" trains between Garfield and Magna, and Copperton. These became known as a "Copperton run."
As part of its contract with Kennecott, Railworks made a subcontract with Rail Link, a company owned by Genesee and Wyoming, the parent company of Utah Railway. Railworks was responsible for the operations contract and Rail Link furnished the operating crews. Railworks was also responsible for the maintenance of Kennecott's rail car fleet (mostly the white sulfuric acid tank cars). To fulfill the operations contract, Railworks purchased three of the GP39-2s from Kennecott.
The Railworks contract (and Rail Link subcontract) remained in place until Railworks was purchased by Tangent Rail in 2005. Tangent Rail was sold to Stella-Jones in 2010, and in November 2012, Stella-Jones sold the Garfield switching contract to Omaha Track.
In 2020, Omaha Track was out-bid for the Garfield switching contract, and on July 1, 2020, the contract was passed to RailServe, one of the largest industrial switching services in the nation. RailServe uses its own fleet of locomotives, as well as additional locomotives from other leasing companies, such as GMTX.
(Read more about the Garfield switching contract)
In March 2022, the railroad overpass crossing of State Route 111 (Bacchus Highway) at about 7500 South in southwestern Salt Lake Valley was removed by a contractor working for Utah Department of Transportation. The same contractor, at the same time, removed the overpass crossing at 5400 South. The Kennecott Ore Haulage railroad (a private railroad) that crossed S.R. 111 and 5400 South at those points had not been used for 20 years.
(View a time-lapse video of the SR-111 removal, posted to Facebook by UDOT)