Monday, November 23, 2009

The Copper Miner

Bone tired, and bleary-eyed with lack of quality sleep. That's how I feel. But when the alarm goes off, I know I have to get up. I don't have the luxury of slapping clumsily at the button that will permit another nine minutes of peace. This isn't Sunday, when I can swipe at the infernal digital demon, fumbling to silence it without awakening. It's three in the morning, time to get up. I'm denied the sanctuary of the pleasant reverie of dreams.

Slowly I roll out of bed, pausing as I rise. Taking time to let my head clear. Allowing the narcotic effect of sleep to dissipate. So that when I stand, I don't stumble half-drugged. I test my weight gingerly on my ankles. Lately the gout has flared again, crippling my left foot with excruciating pain. It feels like Kathy Bates struck me, disabling my ankle with her small sledge hammer. But this isn't a Stephen King movie, it's my life. And it sure is misery.

I stagger into the bathroom and lean on the marble of the basin. I look into the mirror, afraid to focus my vision, to see what peers back. Reflected in that silvery plane the visage of a stranger stares at me. The face isn't mine, it isn't possible. Am I really as old as the impersonator would suggest? Whose image is composed of features weathered by time? Tanned, leathery skin? Crow's feet spreading from the corners of his eyes?

I brush my teeth, and at least my mouth feels fresh. I slap on foamy lather and draw a disposable razor across my stubble. I take a quick navy shower to conserve water. After the morning ablutions I am finally fully awake. I dress, donning durable jeans, a long-sleeved pendleton shirt over a cotton tee, and my steel-toed workboots. Those boots have a lot of miles on them, but they're necesary for the type of job I do.

This part of Utah, there isn't much work. I'm in the suburbs north of Salt Lake. I have to rise as early as I do because of the one hour commute to Kennecott. When I got hired there wasn't room in the dorms at offsite employee housing. But at least I'm on the waiting list. I grab my thermos of steaming coffee and head out to warm up the truck. I have a thirty-nine mile drive ahead of me. Some of it on twisting mountain road. Not all of it paved. I need to get going if I'm going to get to work on time.

My workday starts at the crack of dawn. This time of year that's about 4:45am. Each day it changes by a minute or so, but it's my responsibility to be onsite on time. Though you can barely see, as soon as the crepuscular dimness of fleeing night brings Dawn's light to day, you're expected to climb in, turn the key, and fire the beast to life. I drive a Terex Titan, and it's a monster. With a chassis sixty-six feet long, I have to scale a ladder mounted alongside the rig to enter the cab. I'm about eighteen feet off the ground when I'm seated.

My job is to ferry ore from the mine to the processing facility. The capacity of my hopper is immense. Yet I'm just one of many drivers, and today I'll make several round-trips. You see, I work at the Kennecott Utah Bingham Canyon Mine. It's the world's largest man-made excavation. The mine is 2 3/4-miles across and 3/4-mile deep. It is so big that it can be seen from outer space. Even though I just drive a big rig, I like to think of myself as a copper miner.

Thank God I don't have to go through that every morning. It was all pretend. But I imagine there are people who go through something very similar each day. I'm glad they have those jobs, and not me. I respect what they do, but I'm happy I don't have to go to all that trouble to fetch that ore to refine a load of copper. All I need to do is drive to the local bank and request a $25 box of pennies, then sort the copper ones out, leaving the zinc. You see, I consider myself a copper miner too.

Many are aware that our natural resources are rapidly depleting, copper among them. Each year, new discoveries of sizable ore deposits worldwide are shrinking. Even if exploration uncovers a viable site, it can take as many as seven years to construct a producing mine. Mine development involves a long and steady process of land-leasing, exploration, feasibility studies, environmental impact reports, and often convoluted legal maneuvering. It would be nice if one could avoid all that.

Well, Prospector, welcome to green mining. Let's protect the environment and enrich ourselves at the same time. The time to witness some nice percentage price gains is approaching. Precious metals silver and gold are climbing giddily, responding to the stimulus of an immense increase in our monetary base. Soon it will be base metals chance to share the limelight. Why not avail ourselves of a ready source of copper ore? It's already refined and just sitting in vaults conveniently located across the land.

What I'm talking about just makes cents. The United States Mint to be specific. Pennies minted prior to 1982, for the most part, were composed of 95% copper and 5% zinc. Starting in that same year, the components of the alloy used to fabricate the cent were changed. Commodity prices had risen, and it was cheaper for the Mint to produce cents that were 97.5% zinc, with only 2.5% copper. Copper coins are miniature metallic lottery tickets, and they're essentially free of cost. Collect them while you can.

Should one desire to participate in the transitional stage of a shift from soon-to-be worthless Federal Reserve Notes into purchasing-power-preserving precious and base metals, one need only start saving their old pennies. The dollar only buys about 5% of what it used to in 1913. I, for one, would like to put a stop to that. Ron Paul's bill to audit the Fed may fail to pass the Senate; it's looking like it may lack sufficient votes. But at least we can take measures to safeguard our own wallets.

Buy silver. Buy gold. Save copper. Start now.


  1. I read your article on copper at Financial Sense Online. Nice. So what do you think about saving (U.S.) nickels? Upside- 75% copper that you don't have to sort. Get a $100 box and stack it just the way it came from the bank. Your mining job just got a lot less tedious. Downside- less bang for the buck, compared to pennies.

  2. Ken, thanks for the kind words. I think that saving nickel is another opportunity to hedge against the dollars impending collapse by using another base metal that also functions as money. There are some who tout nickel as being superior to copper for the very reasons you mention, and many contributors on realcent save both. Check out this link for further info

  3. It wasn't until after I submitted this article to a large readership at that I realized Kennecott Utah is a company, a division of Rio Tinto, and not a city in Utah. Better fact-checking on my part would have eliminated this error. For a fascinating tour of the world of copper visit: