It’s no secret that humans have gone to insane lengths to transform the world around us. We’ve leveled forests to build parking lots, flooded valleys to make lakes, dammed rivers to power homes, and even carved old men into mountainsides. Time and again, mankind has proven that it can shape and change the natural world with ease. But sometimes, the natural world fights back.
When Soviet geologists made an extraordinary find in the Siberian wilderness, they believed its excavation would be routine. What happened then would become a nightmare for the next 44 years…
In the aftermath of World War II, the Russian economy found itself in shambles. As the nation teetered on the brink of collapse, Soviet officials were forced to commission a deadly expedition in order to keep the country alive.
In 1955, three Russian geologists—Yuri Khabardin, Ekaterina Elagina, and Viktor Avdeenko—began a dangerous trek deep into the Siberian wilderness. What they found changed the fate of their country forever…
After a grueling 5,000 mile journey, the team stumbled upon a massive vein of the volcanic rock kimberlite. The bulky, alien-like stone was a find unlike any other, and its rich mineral deposits were exactly what the geologists were looking for.
Believing that Russia’s saving grace was lying just below the surface, a three-year excavation began to unearth the potential treasures. But what began as an undertaking of hope and optimism quickly turned deadly…
Throughout the seven-month Siberian winters, both the miners and the earth were ravaged by brutal weather and -40 degree temperatures. Even dynamite and jet engines proved useless against the icy permafrost.
In fact, the frigid temperatures of Siberia were so intense that oil froze solid, steel beams cracked like glass, and truck tires became so brittle that they shattered into pieces.
When the warm months rolled around, the thick layers of permafrost melted, creating a deadly slush that dragged man and machine alike into the depths of the pit below. And that wasn’t even the worst of it.
As the hole grew deeper in size, it began to exhibit strange qualities. On several occasions, small aircrafts and helicopters were snatched right out of the sky and sucked into the darkness below. It was almost as if the hole had a mind of its own…
Miners later discovered that the warm air rising up out of the pit mixed with the cold Siberian climate to create an enormous air vortex. To the Soviets’ horror, this expedition had quickly become much more than they’d bargained for.
Thankfully, in 1960, Russia officially opened its largest mineral mine in history: the Mir Mine. The massive hole measured 3,900 feet in diameter and 1,722 feet in depth; even in trucks, it took two hours for miners to travel from its rim to the pit below.
The Mir Mine was considered a marvel of modern engineering, and at the time it ranked as the second-largest man-made hole in the world. In fact, the hole was so deep that you could fit five Statues of Liberty stacked on top of each other inside!
Though mining from the Mir proved treacherous, the Russian economy began to reap the benefits of its endeavor. By the end of the 1960’s, the mine was producing 10,000,00 carats of diamonds per year, giving stone polishers plenty of work. But these weren’t ordinary diamonds…
The stones pulled from the mine were otherworldly, with most being the size of golf balls. One of the largest, the 130.85 carat “Ohlonkho Diamond”, sold for an unprecedented $430,000 at auction.
Another diamond, an enormous 342.57 carat gem dubbed “The 26th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”, was the largest ever mined the country. Russia’s fortunes appeared to be changing fast… or so they believed.
As Russian diamonds flooded the market, the De Beers diamond company—the world’s primary diamond distributor at the time—were forced to purchase massive amounts of these gems in order to deflate prices. De Beers became suspicious of the Russians, and their requests to access the Mir were met with a string after string of difficulties.
For nearly 6 years, Russian officials skillfully delayed the arrival of the De Beers representatives to their mine by coordinating elaborate meetings with top Soviets. They even went as far as throwing elaborate banquets for the reps in order to stall their visit.
By the time the De Beers reps finally visited the Mir, their visas were nearly expired and they were only able to view the mine for 20 minutes. But the Soviets would inevitably get their just desserts…
Following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, control of the Mir Mine fell into the hands of the Japanese mining company, Sakha. Over the course of Sakha’s ownership, they reported earnings of $600 million per year. Sorry, Russia!
Eventually, Russia regained control of the mine through the company Alrosa and began expanding the preexisting underground mining operation. By 2001, all mining activity was conducted completely underground.
The end of the Mir Mine came in 2004 when severe flooding damaged the tunnel system and forced Alrosa to end the mine’s 44-year operation. Yet this wasn’t the end for Russia’s legendary mine…
Shortly after the Mir shut down, a construction company by the name of AB Elise proposed a plan to convert the massive hole into an awesome underground city of the future—and the 3D-models are out of this world!
Dubbed “Eco-City 2020”, the project involved creating a domed city within the man-made crater large enough to house 100,000 residents. With the use of thousands of solar panels, the city was designed to represent harmony between urbanism and nature and promote eco-friendly tourism.
Mother Nature Network
The plan was put on hold, however, when the Mir resumed mining operations in 2009 with extraction expected to last for another 50 years. Look’s like those miners have their work cut out for them!
Did you ever think a hole in the ground could become such a headache? Maybe diamonds aren’t anyone’s best friend after all!
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