The Biggest Mines In The World

(22 votes)

Bigger isn’t always better, but in the mining industry it usually is. Big machines unearthing big loads of ore to make big bucks leads to some pretty sizeable holes in the ground. So we set out to answer the question: just what are the biggest mines in the world? We qualified what constitutes ‘big’ in the mining industry by looking at: the largest open pit mine, deepest underground mine, biggest workforce, largest tonnage extracted and most profitable mine. What we’ve dredged up is sure to astound you – in a big way.

Largest open pit mine:

An average, healthy human being should be able to dig a grave-sized hole in about 6 - 8 hours. So what would happen if thousands of miners dug a hole for over 100 years? You might end up with a pit something the size of Bingham Canyon Copper Mine in Utah, USA. The world’s biggest man-made hole in the ground is 4.5 km wide and 1.2 km deep. It is said that if the Bingham Canyon Mine was used as a stadium, it could seat 9 million people.


Work began at Bingham Canyon Mine in 1906 and the operation continues to unearth about 150,000 tons of copper ore each day. Bingham Canyon Mine (now owned by Kennecott Utah Copper) has produced over 18 million tons of copper in its lifetime, more than any other single mine in history. And, unlike the Great Wall of China, the mine is something you can actually see from space.


Deepest underground mine:

At nearly 4 kilometres deep, the TauTona (translation: ‘great lion’) Gold Mine in South Africa is the world’s deepest underground mine and well on its way to testing out the theory: if you dig down deep enough you will reach China.


Work began at TauTona in 1962 and today the mine features around 800 kilometres of tunnels, with the journey back to the surface taking around an hour. Because of the extreme depth, temperatures in the mine can reach 55oC and air-conditioning must be used to cool the mine down to more tolerable conditions.

South Africa is home to several deep gold mines that are renowned for their poor safety standards. The TauTona Gold Mine is no exception. The 5,600 miners at TauTona face dangerous conditions daily. Testimony to this is the fact that 15 employees died as a result of mining accidents in 2011 alone.

Biggest workforce:

Big things are nothing new to Australians. The Big Pineapple, the Big Banana and the Big Potato are just a few of the vast array Big Things that dot the Australian landscape.  Much in the same vein, the Big Australian Mining Company, BHP Billiton, is a key part of the Australian economy.


The huge multinational company employs the largest mining workforce in the world and is also one of the world’s largest producers of aluminium, coal, copper, iron ore, nickel, silver and uranium. BHP Billiton has mining and processing operations in 25 countries worldwide and employs some 125,000 employees (including contractors).The mess hall queue must be enormous.

Largest tonnage extracted:

Carajás Mine in Northern Brazil owns the record for producing the most amount of extracted ore per annum. The mine, owned by the mining giant Vale, produced 322.6 million metric tonnes of iron ore in 2011. In a move to ramp up production even further, the world’s largest iron ore mine now looks set to become truckless in the next few years.


Vale will replace its in-mine trucks with about 40 kilometres of conveyer belts beginning in 2016 and this project is expected to add 90 million tonnes to total output whilst halving operating costs.

Most profitable mine:

Indonesia’s carajas is a copper gold mine – both literally and figuratively. The Freeport McMoRan owned mine claims the prize for being the world’s largest gold mine and third biggest copper mine. Total profit for the mine in 2010 totalled $4.3 billion US, that’s the equivalent of Malawi’s total GDP.


But it isn’t all smooth sailing for the mine which could effectively buy a small, land-locked sub-Saharan country per year. Recently, thousands of Grasberg miners downed tools for a week, demanding better pay. The miners, who are paid about $1.50 an hour, were shot at by police when their protest turned violent. Work finally resumed at the mine when Freeport McMoRan promised to increase the miners’ wages. Someone should probably tell these miners that there is a slowdown in the industry and they are all lucky to just have a job.

So, as can be seen, the mining industry tends not to do things by halves. When it comes to unearthing the Earth’s mineral resources it’s a case of: how big can you go? To satiate a mineral-hungry world, various mining operations around the globe are furthering the industry by seeing just how deep, how much and how far they can go in order to keep economies humming along.


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o BHP A$33.65 ▲0.09 (0.27%)
o Rio Tinto A$64.41 ▲0.71 (1.11%)
o Fortescue A$2.49 ▲0.01 (0.40%)
o Newcrest A$14.39 ▲0.46 (3.30%)


Company ID [ASX:BHP] Last trade:A$33.65 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▲0.09 (0.27%)

Rio Tinto

Company ID [ASX:RIO] Last trade:A$64.41 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▲0.71 (1.11%)


Company ID [ASX:FMG] Last trade:A$2.49 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▲0.01 (0.40%)


Company ID [ASX:NCM] Last trade:A$14.39 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▲0.46 (3.30%)


Minetalk Poll

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

No, it's just media hype.
Yes as a result of lower demand.
Still plenty of resources.
There will be a second boom.
1 Votes left

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