Extreme Mining! – Mirny Mine

Credit to: Cuma1

Mirny Diamond Mine in Siberia, Northern Russia

As you may be aware, the job of a miner & mining geologists is never a ‘safe’ job. This applies to open pit and underground mining. Common dangers, mostly with underground mining, includes mine wall failure/collapse, suffocation, gas explosions and, yes, even intentional explosions misfire and kill workers. In China, on average 13 miners die each day due to these common dangers.

However, as if these dangers may not be enough to put off aspiring miners and mining geologists, imagine developing and operating an open pit mine in an environment with winters lasting seven months of the year. Then imagine doing this with equipment from the 1950’s. I am referring to the second largest excavated hole in the world, Mirny Mine. Located in Siberia in Northern Russia, the open pit mine is so large, it is visible from space!

With a depth of 1,722 feet and being 1.2 Km wide, the open pit mine is now inactive since being exhausted in 2004. Opened in 1957, the purpose of the mine was to produce industrial diamonds for the Soviet Union. This was no easy task by any means necessary. This mine is considered extreme due to harsh weather conditions meaning that during the seven month winters, oil to run machinery would freeze, steel equipment became brittle and snapped and tyres for vehicles would blow. In the summer months, a permafrost layer would melt becoming slush and the mining city of Aikhal had to be built on ten foot high steel poles so it would not sink. Jet engines were used to melt the 16 metre thick permafrost and when that failed explosives were used. The largest haulage truck ever produced carried ore from the open pit to the factory 20 miles away. All mining exploration strategies had to be well thought out in order to put up with the extreme conditions in Siberia.

If this wasn’t extreme enough for you then consider this… Mirny Mine also had to ban air traffic directly above it, after reports of helicopters being sucked into the hole by a downwards air vortex created by its sheer size.

This mine is an example of human determination to produce commodities regardless of climate and incapacitations and is a true wonder of its time.

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Beckie Joseph

Recent graduate with a BSc Hons Geology Degree. Interested in anything geology related but also environmental and archaeological topics!

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