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|Length:||1 hour, 20 minutes.|
|Released:||February 26th, 2003|
They left their homelands-Greece, Italy, England, Sweden, Japan-for hardscrabble boomtowns within the narrow walls of Utah's Bingham Canyon, lured by the prospect of underground riches and a faith in the "American Dream." Instead of gold, silver, and other precious metals, these immigrant miners found low-grade copper ore, a mineral whose value would skyrocket with the birth of electricity and telecommunications in America.
Wielding picks and shovels, the new residents established tight ethnic enclaves around a growing open pit copper mine that would eventually engulf their very existence. Houses sprang up along the canyon walls while stores, churches, bars and brothels were built around roads so narrow that wagons-then cars-could scarcely pass. Bingham City, Copperfield, Highland Boy and other towns in the canyon were true rough-and-tumble mining towns, but they would not survive the earth-moving machinery that carved away the mountain and devoured the canyon to become today's Kennecott Copper Mine.
The rich history of the people who created the world's largest open pit copper mine has been unearthed in an 80-minute KUED documentary produced by Colleen Casto.
COPPER CANYON is the first comprehensive portrait of Bingham Canyon, which became home to one of Utah's first immigrant communities. The first influx of Northern Europeans came in the 1880s, followed by the turn-of-the century boom that drew workers from Eastern and Southern Europe, Japan and China. Never before in Utah had so many different cultures and so many languages been crowded into such tight living conditions as those in the narrow confines of Bingham Canyon.
Former residents, now quite elderly, fondly recall living in the canyon, along with the conflict and hard work. COPPER CANYON combines their stories with private photograph collections, personal writings and interviews, historical commentary and 3-D graphics to depict the canyon as it once was.
The history of Bingham Canyon takes off in 1865, when a colonel stationed at Fort Douglas sent his men to explore the unknown canyon. What they found-gold, silver, and other precious metals-soon became international news, sparking a mining boom that would draw prospectors from across the world to come work for the Utah Copper Company (later the Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation), under the bold leadership of a young "rags-to-riches" engineer named Daniel C. Jackling.
While Mormon church leader Brigham Young warned his people of the "nakedness, starvation, utter destitution and annihilation" that comes with the mining life, the enterprise continued to attract immigrant prospectors. By 1912, Bingham's population was 65 percent foreign-born, with each nationality patronizing its own establishments. Some spoke little English, as one resident recalls, and arrived with labels on their clothing indicating where they were supposed to show up for work.
Forming the backbone of the COPPER CANYON narrative are the evocative words of Irish immigrant John Creedon, who moved to Bingham City in 1911 and eventually wrote for the Bingham Bulletin. Character readings of his articles and columns, along with the personal recollections of former Canyon residents, bring to life the colorful neighborhoods and rumbling blasts that came to characterize the settlement.
"The din was terrific with the engines and steam shovels whistling and the deep tone of the big whistle warning of the blasting..." recalls Creedon in his weekly Bulletin column. "In those days, it was a big hill and not a huge hole in the ground."
Although the residents of the canyon survived hardship, labor disputes, ethnic conflicts and world wars, the communities could not survive the ever-expanding mine. Picks and shovels soon gave way to high-powered earth-moving machines. On November 22, 1971, with only 19 of the townspeople remaining, Bingham Canyon officially ceased to exist.
"The people who carved out a life in Copper Canyon's boomtowns left behind a rich multi-cultural legacy in the Salt Lake Valley," says Casto. "This documentary is their story."
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