The Biggest Hole In The World by Adam Bunch

That's the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah. It's nearly 150 years old; the first picks and shovels went into the ground all the way back in 1863. And it's the deepest hole we've ever dug.

It was Mormon pioneers — sent into the mountains by the polygamist "Moses of the Mormons", Brigham Young, to graze cattle and cut timber — who first noticed all the precious metal lying around. But they were too busy trying not to starve to death to be able to do much about it. It wasn't until after they left the area that the rush started, gradually picking up steam over the next few decades as people began to realize just how the fuck much copper was in the ground right there. Not to mention all the gold and silver and platinum and other ores.

Thousands of prospectors showed up. And then the giant copper companies. A rail line was built. Smelting facilities. Mills. Whole towns sprang up on the steep walls of the canyon — Carr Fork, Frog Town, Copperton, Copperfield, Copper Heights — at least a dozen of them, filled with people from all over the world. It quickly became the most ethnically diverse part of Utah; they nicknamed it "The League of Nations". By the time the 1920s rolled around, the biggest of the towns, Bigham Canyon, was home to fifteen thousand, most of them born more than an ocean away.

The hole kept growing. It got deeper. And wider. Everything around it was swallowed up. Entire mountains disappeared. Eventually, it began eating into the towns themselves, devouring entire blocks, houses dismantled or razed and the ground beneath them carved away into nothing. By 1971, there were only 31 people still living in what was left of Bingham Canyon. They voted 11-2 to abandon it. And then the hole ate the rest of it, too.

Bingham Canyon, 1914
Today, the hole is 4.5 kilometers wide and 1.2 kilometers deep.  In Toronto terms, that would be from the lake up to about St. Clair, from Bathurst all the way over to the Don Valley, and more than twice as deep as the CN Tower is high. When holes get this big, you can't even fly near them; the suction they create has been known to down aircraft.

And the thing is still growing. Every single day another 450,000 tons of rock are hauled up out of the mine by novelty-sized trucks working around the clock. It produces nearly two billion dollars worth of metal every year. Since the digging started, the hole has coughed up more money than the Klondike, Comstock and California gold rushes put together.

The whole thing is so impressive, in fact, that the United States has named it a National Historic Landmark. You can go see it yourself. All summer long, tourists flock to the site of the giant nothingness, happy to pay $5 to stare at the biggest hole in the world.

Photo: The Bingham Canyon Mine

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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