The Mir Diamond Mine is the largest open-pit diamond mine in the world. At 1,722 feet deep and 3,900 feet wide, it is also one of the largest excavated holes in the world. I stare at pictures of this mine often because the sheer size of it boggles my mind. The little tiny boxes scattered around it are actually buildings several stories high. You can’t even see the people.
This mine is found in the Siberian region of Russia in the town of Mirny. Development started in 1957, and if the word “Siberia” means anything to you, you might imagine the challenges that were ahead. Winter there lasts seven months of the year during which the ground is frozen. And when I say frozen, I mean car tires would freeze and steel would shatter. Jet engines had to be brought in to thaw the ground to dig. In the short summer months, however, the ground softened and buildings would sink into the permafrost, necessitating that they be built up on piles.
You might ask yourself why anyone would spend so much effort digging such a big hole in Siberia. Did I mention that this is a diamond mine? At its peak, 10 million carats of diamonds were produced each year. This was enough to worry another company who dug for diamonds, De Beers. De Beers had to buy diamonds from the Mir Mine to control the market price of the gem.
But this wasn't enough— they wanted to know more about Russian mining developments. In 1976 Russia acquiesced to their plea to visit the mine, and an executive and the chief geologist of De Beers were granted visas to check it out for themselves. Once the pair landed in Russia, however, they found themselves forced to attend party after party until they were seriously worried that they would never get to see the mine. They were finally granted a short visit just before their visas expired. When I say a short visit, I mean they had literally 20 minutes. Well played, Russia.
The big hole is no longer mined for diamonds. But get this: Now they mine under the hole, up to 1 km beneath it. That's almost worse.