Huge Holes in the Earth: Open-Pit Mines Seen From Space

Escondida Mine, Chile

The Escondida mine, opened in 1990 at 10,000 feet in northern Chile’s Atacama desert, currently produces more copper than any other mine in the world, with 1.5 million tons in 2007, worth more than $10 billion and representing nearly a tenth of world copper production. More than 6,000 people work at the mine.

This image was captured in 2000 by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer aboard NASA’s Terra satellite.

Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah

Located 20 miles outside Salt Lake City in the Oquirrh Mountains, the Bingham Canyon copper pit has produced more than 18 million tons of copper over its lifetime, more than any other mine in the world. The pit is about 2.75 miles wide and 4,000 feet deep. Two Empire State buildings stacked one on top of the the other wouldn’t reach the top. By 2015, the mine will be 500 feet deeper, and a third Empire State building will fit inside. The terraces inside the pit, which provide a base for the digging equipment and also stabilize the slopes, can be more than 80 feet high. Opened in 1904, the site has been named a historic landmark.

This photograph was taken Sept. 20, 2007, by astronauts aboard the International Space Station with a digital camera and an 800mm lens.

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