The Nearly Mile-Wide Diamond Mine That Helped Build the Soviet Union

Building empires takes money. And building industrial empires takes diamonds, not just for cash, but for the machines and tools that need them to operate. In a remote corner of Siberia, the Mir diamond mine was responsible for funneling diamonds into building the USSR—and it left behind a pit that stretches almost a… » 6/20/14 12:13pm 6/20/14 12:13pm

China Is Building Fake Islands to Bolster Its Claim to Disputed Waters

Pity the poor mapmaker assigned to the South China Sea. The hotly disputed waters in the Pacific are torn between competing claims from all the countries that surround it. China, especially, has been aggressive and sly. It's now dumping sand onto small reefs and shoals, building whole new islands to bolster its… » 6/18/14 7:00pm 6/18/14 7:00pm

These Are the Rare and Precious Metals Mined From Inside Old Electronics

You've surely heard that inside your iPhone, TV, and power drill sit fragments of valuable metals, and that our hunger for new gadgets is depleting the world of its very limited supply. But you've probably never actually seen those chips of gold or tantalum. Well, here they are. » 6/05/14 1:20pm 6/05/14 1:20pm

These Incredible Salt Mines Are Like Another World Beneath Our Feet

Salt mines are special compared to other underground excavation sites: once they are closed for extraction purposes, they can be opened for visitors, or for storage purposes—all because of their unique microclimate with natural air-conditioning and constant temperature and atmospheric pressure all year. » 5/02/14 9:02am 5/02/14 9:02am

Deepsea Minerals Are Coming Soon To A Cell Phone Near You

Rocks mined from the seafloor have been confirmed as a viable source for rare earth metals, and thus a tiny piece of the ocean might soon find its way into a cell phone or computer chipboard near you. The finding, published in the April 2014 issue of Applied Geochemistry, all but guarantees a new round of focus on… » 4/18/14 12:00pm 4/18/14 12:00pm

The World's Oldest Underground Fire Has Been Burning For 6,000 Years

If you've heard of underground coal fires, then you've probably heard of the one raging under the abandoned town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, since 1962. Fifty-two years is a long time—and a lot of coal—but that's barely a blink compared to Burning Mountain in Australia, which has been ablaze for 6,000 years. » 3/10/14 10:20am 3/10/14 10:20am

Terrifying Facts About the World's Deepest Gold Mine

Oh, the things humans will do to get their grubby hands on gold—a metal mostly prized for its ornamental use, hoarded in bank vaults and jewelry boxes, though we've arbitrarily decided it's worth, uh, its weight in gold.* The deepest gold mine in the world is Mponeng, a 2.5-mile hole in the ground in South Africa. A… » 12/16/13 3:20pm 12/16/13 3:20pm