The world’s biggest hole probably has to be an open pit mine

Wednesday, 2 July, 2014

At a depth of 1500 feet, about 500 metres, and spread over thirty-five square kilometres, the Hambach open cast coal mine in Germany, is one of the largest man made holes on the planet, and is the subject of a photo series by Munich based photographer Bernhard Lang.

For the sake of reference, rather than any attempt to play catch up as it were, the Super Pit gold mine, or Fimiston Open Pit, in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, is said to be the biggest open pit mine in this part of the world.

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So your neighbourhood is bad? Try living on the roof of the world

Thursday, 26 July, 2012

Located at an altitude of some five kilometres above sea level, La Rinconada, a mining city in the Peruvian Andes, is probably a place you’d try and avoid unless you absolutely had to visit. And difficulty breathing, on account of low oxygen levels at that height, that can even make sleeping difficult, is only the beginning:

A complete lack of planning has led to frontier living conditions in the bleak grey city: there are no mining regulations, no functional municipal governance, and no police force or any sort of government agencies beside the school. Most people live in lean-tos and corrugated metal shacks crowded closely together in what little space can be found on the mountain slopes. Sanitation services are non-existent; garbage is simply piled up along the sides of the meandering paths that pass for streets, or is just burned. The cold, half-frozen streets regularly flow with a mixture of mud and sewage combined with mercury used to separate gold from rock; it’s even contaminated the very glacier the city gets its water from.

And you thought the place you call home had problems?

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Drilling for oil among ice, no surprise then it’s called black gold

Thursday, 14 June, 2012

Bookmark for later since it’s a longer read… a gritty account of life and work on an oil rig in Alaska’s North Slope, within the Arctic Circle.

How do you build an island to put an oil rig on? You wait until the ocean freezes. You can’t dig water, but you can dig ice. You dig to the bottom and excavate a foundation, about eleven acres in all. You find a source of gravel – in this case, a pit ten miles away – because you need a lot of it. Crews built ice roads and started hauling. They kept hauling, 20,000 truckloads, traveling a total of 400,000 miles, the equivalent of about sixteen trips around the world. They had to hurry. They had to get it all done before the ice roads melted. They dumped gravel, dumped and dumped, sculpted a six-acre rectangle out of it, then got to work on a retaining wall: more gravel – 8,000 sacks of it weighing 13,000 pounds each – one on top of the other, bam, bam, bam, a barrier to fight back the summer sea. They had to hurry. They had to connect the island to shore, six miles away. They dug a trench, a crazy-long trench, in which a subsea flow line would carry oil. It cost $500 million to build this island, not to mention the brawn of constantly revolving crews of as many as 600 people working in temperatures cold enough to kill.

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I just descended three kilometres underground by elevator

Monday, 8 August, 2011

Ryan Anderson describes a visit to the Kidd Creek mine, in Ontario, Canada, which descends to a depth of almost three kilometres below the Earth’s surface.

We arrived at the top of the second mine shaft and as we waited, Amy cheerfully told us that normally when the miners go on shift, they are crammed together like sardines in the elevator, and that they are instructed to stand with their knees slightly bent in case the elevator cable gives way. If this happens, there are brakes in the mine shaft that stop the car, but they aren’t gentle, and in a cab crammed with people there is no way to fall sideways and cushion the impact. If you’re standing with knees locked, it is possible to crush the bones in your leg when a free-falling lift is slammed to a stop. If everyone keeps their knees bent, they all just fall to the floor of the car on their knees en masse and injuries are minimized.

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The big picture: Indonesia’s Kawah Ijen Volcano

Wednesday, 3 June, 2009

About two months ago I posted a link to photos of the Kawah Ijen Volcano in Indonesia, and its lake of sulfuric acid. Big Picture has now assembled some amazing photos of the volcano, together with the sulfur miners who work there, and the often very dangerous environment they operate in.

In East Java, Indonesia lies Kawah Ijen volcano, 2,600 meters tall (8,660ft), topped with a large caldera and a 200-meter-deep lake of sulfuric acid. The quietly active volcano emits gases through fumaroles inside the crater, and local miners have tapped those gases to earn a living. Stone and ceramic pipes cap the fumaroles, and inside, the sulfur condenses into a molten red liquid, dripping back down and solidifying into pure sulfur. Miners hack chunks off with steel bars, braving extremely dangerous gases and liquids with minimal protection, then load up as much as they can carry for the several kilometers to the weighing station. Loads can weigh from 45 to 90kg (100 – 200 lbs), and a single miner might make as many as two or three trips in a day. At the end of a long day, miners take home approximately Rp50,000 ($5.00 u.s.). The sulfur is then used for vulcanizing rubber, bleaching sugar and other industrial processes nearby.

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