Missiles and Copper

Trip Start Sep 06, 2012
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Trip End Mar 06, 2013


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Where I stayed
Casino del Sol

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Friday, January 18, 2013

This morning we visited the Titan Missile Museum. The Titan was an intercontinental nuclear missile that was used as a deterrent during the Cold War. This missile was powerful indeed and could destroy wooden homes 27 km away from the landing site and at 48 km away, people would experience first degree burns. The silo we visited near Tucson is the last of the 54 titan missile silos that the US had located across three states. We actually went into the launch control centre and I sat in the missile commander seat, went through the steps to launch the missile, and I turned the key to start the countdown. Even though it was a simulation, the experience felt very eerie to me. Our guide related his experiences working in this environment, 24 hours shifts always in eyesight of at least one other person except when he was on his break in the lunch room. After the Cold War, the nuclear warheads were removed and the missiles were used to deploy satellites. All the silos were destroyed except for this one near Tucson and now it is a museum.

When we were driving to the Missile Museum we could see hills in the distance that didn't seem quite natural, they were very rounded and uniform. These hills went on for quite a distance, almost to the Missile Museum site. We spoke to the woman at the museum who told us that these hills were part of the open pit copper mine and that there were tours available. So, of course, Greg and I decided to visit the copper mine. What an experience! The open pit is two miles in diameter and 1600 feet deep. The mine has been in operation since 1899 and besides copper, they also recover silver and gold as a by product. The mine’s electricity bill is $1.5 million dollars a month and the mined gold pays this bill. We watched massive front loaders fill massive dumptrucks. The mining company has just bought four new larger trucks at a price tag of $4.5 million each. Then we went into the mill and followed the grinding process that separates the metals from the rocks. So interesting.
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