There’s a giant hole in the middle of the Russian province of Siberia that is shrouded in all kinds of mystery. The man-made hole is where people made a fortune excavating diamonds. In the process, people also lost their lives.
While most of us are just now learning about the Mirny mine, conspiracy theorists have had their eyes on this hole for decades. They want to know the details of what happened here and whether the rumor that the hole can suck helicopters out of the sky is true. Keep reading to find out why geologists started digging the mine that became one of the largest excavated holes in the world.
The Mirny Diamond Mine
This giant crater is located in the remote Russian town of Mirny, in Siberia. The hole is an old diamond mine that’s an incredible 1,722 feet deep. Excavation of the mine began in 1957 and it’s now one of the largest man-made holes on Earth.
After word spread about this diamond mine, it became the center of some pretty wild conspiracy theories. So what exactly is going on with this giant crater? Keep reading to find out.
Brutal Winter Weather In Siberia
The Mir mine in Siberia, Russia is a diamond mine that is 1,722 feet deep and 3,900 feet wide. It’s the fourth deepest mine in the world and it’s one of the biggest man-made holes ever created.
The excavation project first started in 1957, and workers kept digging until 2001. The workers battled the harsh climate conditions of Siberia, where the weather is absolutely brutal. Working outside in the harsh weather makes it even worse.
More About The Mir Mine
People have been interested in the Mir mine for a while, and not just because of its massive size. This big empty cavern has found itself at the center of some pretty interesting conspiracy theories.
If you’ve heard about the town of Mirny at all, it’s probably because you heard about a conspiracy theory associated with the Mir mine. The actual origins of the mine aren’t all that mysterious, though.
How It Was Formed
In June 1955, geologists Viktor Avdeenko, Ekaterina Elagina, and Yuri Khabardin discovered evidence of diamonds in the Mirny area. After doing some tests to confirm their suspicions, the geologist started digging. All those tests took two years, but pretty soon, they were able to put their theories to the test.
Getting into that hard ground was no easy task, though. They were going to have to work hard to prove that the space beneath the land was full of valuable gems.
Challenges Of The Climate
In Siberia, winter lasts for seven months. That means that the ground that would become the Mir mine was frozen solid. The crew would have to wait until summer to start digging. When summer came around, the ground turned to mush. While this makes digging much easier, it also makes supporting a mine very difficult.
The mine had to be built on pile foundations to prevent the structure from collapsing completely.
The Logistics Of The Build
Because the ground around the mine was so soft and fragile, the mine’s processing plant had to be built off-site. That meant that whatever was found in the mine had to be transported dozens of miles away for processing.
When winter came around, the people who worked on this mine faced even more challenges. Keep reading to find out how the workers in Siberia dealt with the freezing winter months.
A Worrisome Winter
If you know anything about Russia, you know that it’s a fairly cold place— and by fairly cold, I mean very cold. Temperatures drop so low that steel shatters and oil freezes. To dig into the ground, workers use jet engines to melt the permafrost.
They also made use of dynamite to get through the hard ground. It was a lot of hard work, but it was all worth it to locate the diamonds.
After months of hard labor, the workers were able to extract diamonds from the mine. By the 1960s, this diamond mine was producing more than 4,000 pounds of diamonds per year. These were high-quality diamonds too. Geologists hit the jackpot in Siberia.
As the workers continued mining, the supply began to wane. Sadly, diamonds are not a renewable resource. Soon, the Mir mine was producing just 900 pounds of gems per year.
Few And Far Between
Even though the supply of diamonds seemed to have dried up (at least, they weren’t finding as many diamonds as they used to) the workers at the mine were still able to find some pretty rare treasures.
In December of 1980, the workers found a diamond that was larger than any diamond they found before. It weighed 2.5 ounces and it was even given a special (not so exciting) name: “The 26th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”
The Mine Continues
After the USSR dissolved in the 1990s, the Sakha diamond company took control of Mir mine. In the ’90s, the workers were still extracting diamonds from the mine and the mine was raking in an impressive $600 million per year.
Sakha later sold the mine to Alrosa, which is Russia’s largest diamond producing company. The diamond business is pretty lucrative. There’s lots of money in it if you play your cards right.
Closing Up Shop
By 1999, all open-pit mining had stopped at the Mir mine. Workers were still extracting diamonds, though. That lasted until the early 2000s. Then the Mir mine closed for a bit but re-opened in 2009.
After that, they were set to continue mining for another 50 years. The crew had new equipment that they didn’t have when the mine first opened. They started using 20-foot tall trucks to lift rocks out of the bottom of the mine.
Secrets And Mystery
The Mir mine is still in operation today, however, there isn’t much information about how it’s working. That lack of information has led people to conjure up a lot of theories about this iconic location.
In 2018, some internet savvy folks spotted Mir mine on Google Earth and had no idea about what this large hole actually was. They started to come up with their own ideas, which weren’t exactly accurate.
Why So Secretive?
Mir mine seems to be a place that’s shrouded in secrets. Maybe that’s why so many people think that there’s something shady going on in the remote Siberian cavern. Mirny is kind of in the middle of nowhere. It’s more than 150 miles away from the nearest town.
The BBC once reported that the mine was “strictly off limits to outsiders,” adding a warning that “authorities regard any foreigners with considerable suspicion.”
Legend has it that when the Mir mine was at the top of its game in terms of diamond production, the Soviet government found some super high-quality diamonds elsewhere. This newly discovered deposit of gems formed under an impact crater known as Popigai.
Apparently, the government kept this discovery a secret so that these higher quality diamonds wouldn’t drive down the price of the Mir diamonds.
Maybe conspiracy theorists are on to something…
The Popigai Crater
So what is the Popigai crater, you ask? Well, this geological feature was created around 35 million years ago. A big meteor hit the earth and left behind a gaping hole that measured 62 miles across.
The force of the impact also created impact diamonds. These diamonds are created when a large asteroid hits an area on the earth that’s rich in graphite at a very high speed. A chemical reaction happens and voila, some sparkly diamonds.
The Most Valuable Diamonds
That meteor hitting Siberia may have produced trillions of carats in diamonds. The diamonds from this one deposit could sustain the entire world population’s demand for diamonds for thousands of years.
You would think that the Russian government would be happy about this discovery, and they were, but they waited to share the news of the Popigai crater with the world until after production the Mir mine slowed down in 2012.
A Helicopter Conspiracy
Other than this theory about the Russian government keeping Popigai a secret for the Mir mine’s benefit, there are some other wild theories that have been circulating around the internet involving this massive hole.
Apparently, certain aircraft, especially helicopters, have been banned from flying above the hole. Conspiracy theorist claim that the ban was due to “a few accidents when [hellicopters] were ‘sucked in’ by downward air flow.” However, there is no proof of these accidents ever occurring.
Is It True, Though?
These conspiracy theories may not be entirely made-up, though. There is some truth to the fact that the mine could give rise to atmospheric conditions that might make the airspace above it dangerous for helicopters.
The cool air from inside the mine could mix with the warmer air above the mine causing a vortex. Or the sudden drop in temperature may inhibit a helicopter’s ability to get enough lift.
Look, there’s been no evidence of a helicopter getting sucked out of the sky into a mine, but the mine still could be very dangerous. Forget the people in the air, this mine is dangerous for the people working around and within it.
In August 2017, a surge of water entered the mine, affecting 151 employees. Some of the employees were even reported missing after the water surge. Now that’s dangerous.
What Caused The Water Surge?
Some experts believe that flooding in a nearby abandoned open-air mine caused a surge of water to enter the mine’s underground chambers. There was so much water in the mine that, according to Siberian emergency services, the liquid could have filled 120 Olympic sized swimming pools.
Experts are still trying to learn more about how the surge happened so they can prevent similar disasters from happening in the future.
Even though the surge was disastrous, most of the miners were located and saved. That was thanks in part to an early warning system in place at the Mir mine. Even though most of the miners got out safely, there are still eight miners who are missing.
One miner who was missing was rescued when emergency responders tracked his location using the signal from his radio.
But he wasn’t in the best shape.
Not Without Harm
That miner didn’t escape the Mir mine unscathed, though. After he was recovered from the flooded mine, he was rushed to a nearby hospital and checked into an intensive care unit. He had some bruising on his lung that was making it difficult for him to breathe.
He was able to recover from his injuries in the hospital, and while he recovered, rescue workers continued their search for the remaining eight miners.
All Hands On Deck
The town of Mirny was thrust into a state of emergency as the miners were still missing. Sergey Ivanov, Alrosa’s Chief Executive, reported that the company was doing everything in its power to recover the missing miners and bring them home safely.
They brought in 330 rescue workers and more than 30 equipment units to assist with the recovery mission. People from the surrounding area donated money to the rescue efforts and watched the story unfold on their TV sets.
No End in Sight
The rescue team used the missing miners’ radio locations to try to figure out where these people were when the surge happened. Once they found the miners, they planned on using ropes to reach the trapped miners and pull them to safety.
This plan fell through as technicians weren’t able to get an accurate radio signal. Days were passing quickly and the water levels in the mine were continuing to rise.
All Hope Was Lost
The rescue team had been working on this mission for eleven days straight and they still hadn’t found any signs of the missing miners. The mine was now under 66 million gallons of water, so the search had to be suspended for the safety of the rescue workers.
According to some of the other employees at the mine, some of the missing miners had been on level 210 when the surge happened, and some of them were on level 310. The ones who were at 310 were now impossible to reach.
A Sad Announcement
After the accident happened, Alrosa released a statement in The Siberian Times that read, “It is impossible for rescuers to descend to level 310 as it threatens their lives. The rescue activities on level 310 have been stopped.”
The company refused to answer any more questions about the miners who still might be trapped on the lower level. The families of these miners were angry, upset, and confused. They thought that Alrosa should take more responsibility for the accident.
The End Of The Search
Three weeks after the accident occurred, Alrosa announced that they were calling off the search for all of the missing miners on all levels of the mine.
Rescue efforts had become too dangerous because the mine looked like it was going to collapse under all of that water pressure. Medical experts claimed that nobody would have been able to survive in the mine alone for three whole weeks trapped without food or water.
After the accident, Alrosa claimed that they had lost around $200 million in mining equipment and lost income. The company didn’t seem to be so concerned with the lives lost at their diamond mining facility.
That is until Ivanov released a statement that was reported by The Diamond Loupe. Ivanov said, “The most terrible thing is that people died there. The money is secondary. All the insurance claims will be paid.”
An Empty Hole
The Mir mine in Siberia has now been abandoned. It was just sitting there empty and it was at risk of flooding. The Russian government was trying to figure out a way to put the mine to good use. That’s when a Russian architectural company by the name of Ab Elise came up with a plan.
They wanted to turn the abandoned mine into a state-of-the-art eco-city. What a concept!
Planning For The Future
Now, this is some forward thinking. Ab Elise is planning for this eco-city to be completed by 2020. The city would be 2,000 feet underground and it would have enough space for homes for 100,000 people.
A glass dome would protect the city from Siberia’s harsh weather, and the whole city would be powered by solar panels. This sounds like a good idea in theory, but if this space flooded once, what’s to stop it from flooding again?
A Real Life Eco-City
According to early plans and reports, Eco-city 2020 will exist over multiple levels. Vertical farms would be used to grow food while saving space, and all residential and recreational areas would be planned around a giant energy core at the center of the city.
These blueprints even include a plan for what to do if global warming hits Siberia. These architects have thought of everything. All that’s left to do now is to put this plan into action.
A New Life For An Old Mine
The stories surrounding this decades-old mine almost seem to be stranger than fiction. Just imagine a mine built so many years ago, a place where eight people lost their lives, turning into an Eco-city where people can live in the middle of nowhere. I guess everywhere was the middle of nowhere once upon a time.
Maybe once people start living in this area and exploring the surroundings, we’ll finally get to the bottom of what happened at the Mir mine.
Keep reading to learn about other incredible holes on our planet.
Planet Earth is full of gorgeous and interesting chasms and holes. Some of them were created by people or animals, and some were created by acts of nature. There’s something fascinating about a mysterious hole in the face of the earth. You never know what you’re going to find in there.
These holes give us a window into the creation of the earth. Scientists have been studying these chasms for years.
The Great Blue Hole
This is the Great Blue Hole which is located off the coast of Belize. It’s one of the biggest marine caverns on earth. The Great Blue Hole is a really popular place for deep sea diving because it’s really close to Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve which is home to some pretty impressive marine life.
If you’re into diving, you’re definitely going to want to check out this location. There’s so much to explore in that deep blue hole.
Door To Hell
If a hole is called the Door to Hell, it’s probably something you’re going to want to stay far away from. Not that you should be getting close to strange holes at all, but if you’re going to pick one to steer clear of, this is the one to pick.
This crater is located in Turkmenistan. It was formed when a field of natural gas fell into a cavern beneath the ground. Soviet geologists set it on fire in 1971 to prevent methane gas from spreading, but the pit has been burning ever since.
The Chand Baori Stepwell
We’ve seen some interesting natural pits and caverns on this list already, but people are capable of creating some pretty fascinating holes too. Check out the Chand Baori stepwell in Rajasthan, India.
This underground structure was created sometime around 800-900 A.D. It’s a well that collects water during the rainy season so that the people living in Rajasthan have water to drink and cook with during the drier months. The well is 100 feet deep and it contains a total of 3,500 steps.
The Chuquicamata Copper Mine
Whenever people go looking for buried treasure, they leave behind empty holes in the Earth’s surface. Pictured above is the Chuquicamata Copper Mine in northern Chile.
It was formed in 1910 and expanded in 1968. at one point, this mine was producing 500,000 tons of copper every year. In this case, the buried treasure that people were looking for was copper, and they definitely found that treasure. Now, this empty hole is a treasure for us to behold.
The Deepest Copper Mine In The World
If you thought that last copper mine was deep, check out this mine at Bingham Canyon in Utah’s Salt Lake City. This canyon is the largest man-made excavation on earth. It’s two miles wide and over 700 feet deep.
This mine has been a protected landmark since 1966. It’s still the deepest copper mine on earth. This is definitely a hole that you don’t want to fall into. It would take forever to climb out.
So far, the only actual buried treasure we’ve discussed is copper, but copper isn’t the only mineral that people dig around for in the ground. Some of the world’s deepest holes are actually diamond mines. Diamonds are some of the most precious gems on the planet, and people will dig for miles just to find them.
This is the Kimberly Mine in South Africa. it used to be a hill but now it’s a 700 hole in the ground. This chasm is 1.519 feet wide and 50,00 workers dug it using only picks and their hands.
The Diavik Diamond Mine
Speaking of diamond mines, check out the Diavik Diamond Mine in Northern Canada. This unique land feature is located just below the arctic circle. The only way you can get to it is by ice road or through the local airport.
This mine opened in 2003 and since then more than 3,000 pounds of gems have been found in it per year. Not all of those gems were diamonds, but a lot of them were.