The Mirny Mine in Russia (also known as the Mir Mine) is famous as the largest open pit diamond mine in the world, and as the second largest excavated hole in the world.
(The largest man made hole in the world, in case you were wondering, is the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah.)
Mirny is often misclassified as the world’s deepest mine, but actually, it is the second deepest open mine in the world – it is 525 meters deep, and is 1,200 meters in diameter.
Mirny Diamond Mine
The Mirny mine (sometimes also called the Mir Mine, or the Mirna Mine) was the first diamond mine founded by the Soviet Union. It was opened in 1957, after it was realised that diamonds were increasingly important for the Soviet military-industrial complex, but that the Soviet Union could not afford to continue buying them. In 1952, just a year before his death, Joseph Stalin signed secret orders to buy more than 30 million roubles worth of diamonds from the UK, for example, a cost that could not continue indefinitely.
Despite being in a part of Russia so cold that oil would freeze, the Mirny mine was so successful that within three years it was producing more than 10 million carats of Russian diamonds per year. So much, in fact, that the Soviet Union could afford to set aside the best, gem quality, diamonds for export. A secret deal was quickly done with De Beers, and the Soviet Union quickly became a major diamond exporter – so large, in fact, that Russian diamonds were the country’s most profitable export.
In total, across the 43 years from 1957 to 2000, $17 billion of diamonds came from the Mirny diamond mine.
To support the mine, the town of Mirny was quickly developed, and now has a population of just under 40,000. If you look at this satellite map, you will see that the town was built to come right up to the edge of the mine. The airport is also right next to the mine – presumably to get the diamonds to market all the quicker!
When did the Mirny Mine close?
The open cast mine closed in 2004 – other mines were deemed to be more profitable. But a significant amount of mining did continue at the town’s traditional, underground tunnel mine.
The tunnel mine, operated by Russian diamond mining company Alrosa, is thought to have enough diamonds still available to ensure its operation, and the jobs of the 3,600 miners, for almost 30 more years.
The tunnel mine itself was closed in 2017 following an accident in which eight miners were killed – see more on this below. There are plans to re-open the Mirny tunnel mine, however, perhaps as early as 2024.
Could the Mirny mine suck in helicopters?
The Mirny Mine is such a large hole in the ground that helicopters are not allowed to fly above it.
Despite no recorded incidents of helicopter crashes at the mine, it is believed that the strange air pressure and turbulence caused by the size of the pit could cause helicopters to crash.
This is because the heat from the earth warms the air inside deep holes. When the hot air in the mine rises, it mixes with the cold air immediately above, causing air movement and turbulence. Any pilot flying a helicopter would come across an abrupt change in temperature, which would reduce the amount of lift that the rotors of the helicopter could provide. The pilot would need to increase the rotor speed to compensate, but the change in temperature would be so rapid that the helicopter would lose altitude.
Where is the Mirny Mine – Siberia or Serbia?
The Mirny Mine is located in Siberia, in Eastern Russia, roughly in the centre of the Republic of Sakha, also known as Yakutia. It is approximately 810km from the city of Yakutsk.
The Mirny Mine is not located in Serbia, which is another country in Europe. This confusion is because of the similarity in spelling between Siberia and Serbia.
Mirny Mine Accident
The underground mine flooded in August 2017.
Over 150 people were in the mine at the time – most were rescued, but eight miners bodies were never recovered.
Alexey Busker, the head of the mine was arrested in connection with the deaths. He was found dead in his pre-trial detention centre in October 2019. His death was thought to be suicide.
How deep is the Mirny Diamond Mine?
The open cast Mirny Mine is reported to be 525 metres (1,722 feet) deep, and to have a diameter of 1,200m (3,900 feet).
The tunnel mine is at least 1,036 metres (3,398 feet) deep, and a 10km long tunnel has been constructed.
Mirny Mine Pictures
More pictures of the Mirny diamond mine can be found below.