Open-pit mining is one of the most commonly used techniques to extract minerals from the Earth. The process, which is also known as “opencast mining,” “open-cut mining” and “strip mining,” is used when deposits are located close to the surface, and entails digging or blasting from the ground level to extract ore.
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Along with being highly cost effective and efficient, this digging method results in massive holes that are both impressive and spectacular for onlookers. We showcase the largest open pit mines the mining industry has to offer:
10. Escondida Copper Mine
Located in the vast landscape of the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Escondida Copper Mine is one of the largest open pit mines in the world. Consisting of two open mines – Escondida Pit and Escondida Norta – the mine is 3.9 kilometer long, 2.7 kilometers wide and 645 meters deep. The mine ranks as the third deepest open-pit operation.
Owners of the Escondida mine include BHP Billiton, which owns a 57.5 percent stake, and Rio Tinto, which owns a 30 percent interest.
9. Udachny Diamond Mine
The Udachny Diamond Mine, located in the Eastern-Siberian Region of Russia, is one of the largest open pit operations within Russia, and one of the largest and deepest in the world. Owned and operated by Russia’s state-owned company ALROSA, the open-pit operation has been in production since 1971 and is scheduled to close in 2015. The mine will reopen with underground operations and is expected to commenced commercial production by the end of 2015. According to Alrosa, there is an estimated diamond reserve of 108 million carats for Udachny underground mining.
8. Chuquicamata Copper Mine
For more than a century, the Chuquicamata Copper Mine in Santiago, Chile has been producing massive amounts of copper. Owned and operated by Codelco, the gigantic mine measures at 4.3 kilometers long, three kilometers wide and more than 850 meters deep, making it the second deepest open-pit mine in the world.
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According to Codelco, the company is planning to transition operations to underground by the end of 2018, which is estimated to contain 1.7 billion tons of copper reserves.
7. Grasberg Mine
In terms of gold mines, the Grasberg Mine is the Holy Grail of the mining world. The man-made hole ranks as the largest producing gold mine in the world and the second largest producing copper mine. The gargantuan Grasberg mine is also one of the deepest mines, measuring an astonishing 550 kilometers deep.
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Located in the Papua province of Indonesia, the gold mine is operated by Freeport Indonesia – a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold – and consists of both open-pit and underground operations, producing gold, copper and silver.
6. Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine
What began as an underground mine has transformed into one of the biggest open-pit mines in the world. Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the North,” the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine in Minnesota, US measures a whopping eight kilometers long, 3.2 kilometers wide and 180 meters deep.
Since 1895, the mine has shipped more than 800 million tons of iron and removed more than 1.4 billion tons of earth and 2,000 acres of land. The mine is so gigantic that it has become a national monument for Minnesota.
5. Diavik Diamond Mine
The Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada is one of the largest open pit mines in the world. Built in 2003, the diamond mine measures roughly seven kilometers wide and produces roughly eight million carats a year. The mine, which is situated on an island in the middle of Lac de Gras in the Northwest Territories of Canada, is an unincorporated joint venture between Rio Tinto and Dominion Diamond Diavik Limited.
4. Kimberly Diamond Mine
Often referred to as “The Big Hole,” the De Beers-owned Kimberly Diamond Mine in South Africa is the largest open-pit mine excavated by hand. The perimeter of the mine is 1.6 kilometers and it plunges over 200 meters deep.
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Although the mine has been closed down since 1914, the gargantuan hole continues to attract visitors from around the world and is currently in progress to become registered as a World Heritage Site.
3. Kalgoorlie Super Pit
Bigger is always better in the mining industry, and the Super Pit gold mine in Australia is as big as it gets. The canyon-size hole - which is visible from space! – measures roughly 3.8 kilometers long, 1.5 kilometers wide and approximately 600 meters deep! It’s the largest open-pit mine in Australia and makes our list at number three in the world.
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Also known as “The Fimiston Open Pit,” the gold mine is owned and operated by Kalgoorlie Consolidted Gold Mines (KCGM), a company owned 50/50 by Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining.
2. Mir Diamond Mine
The Mir Diamond Mine in Eastern Siberia, Russia is a former open-pit mining operation that took place from 1957 until 2001. Popularly known as the “Mirny Mine,” the site produced 10 million carats of diamonds annually during its peak years of operations. Now closed, the mine is still the largest excavated hole in the world—stretching 1,200 meters in diameter and reaching depths of 525 meters.
1. Bingham Canyon Mine
Believe it or not, Utah is home to the largest open-pit mine in the world. Located south-west of Salt Lake City, the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine is roughly four kilometers wide and over 1.2 kilometers deep—that’s like two of the Willis Towers in Chicago on top of each other. First discovered in 1848, the copper mine has gained a mythical reputation for its gargantuan stature, as well as produces massive amounts of copper, including millions of ounces gold, silver and molybdenum.