When the earth gives up its copper

The bronze hues, curious lines scoring the ground and sparsely vegetated landscape might make one think of far-flung alien planets.

But the Morenci Mine is not light years away; it is in Arizona, in south-western United States.

The open-pit mine, near the towns of Clifton and Morenci, is said to hold one of the largest copper reserves in the world.

First discovered in the 1860s by gold prospectors, the area has been mined since the 1880s.

The Morenci and various other mines in the state were the backbone of the flourishing copper industry in Arizona during the early 20th century.

After the rush for gold and silver mining had waned, copper production continued to prosper in the region, earning it the nickname "The Copper State".

Today, the mine employs thousands of workers and produces over 300,000 tonnes of copper a year.

This shot by photographic artist Edward Burtynsky is part of his new multidisciplinary project, Anthropocene, which explores the idea proposed by some scientists that a geological epoch shaped by human activity has begun.

It is the fifth of a series featuring his unsettling images that explore the impact of humanity on the planet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2019, with the headline 'When the earth gives up its copper'. Print Edition | Subscribe