What lies at the bottom of one of the deepest holes ever dug by man?

Started by gash, November 26, 2018, 11:41:11 am

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Nothing prepared us for a place called Moab Khotsong, a South African gold mine that extends nearly two miles beneath the surface. In their pursuit of gold, South Africans have dug the deepest holes on Earth. The country was the world's top gold producer for decades. Now the gold is running out, just as these ultra-deep mines have attracted a new breed of miner -- on a very different quest. We went along for the adventure.

In the early morning light, tall mine shafts loom over the Vaal River basin two hours southwest of Johannesburg. This once was a booming gold field, now most mines lie abandoned but Moab Khotsong is bustling. Long before the sun rises, thousands of miners start lining up for the triple-deck elevator called "the cage." It's jammed but more always push on, and early one morning, so did we.



We're packed in as tight as sardines, the electric bells signal we're ready, and the cage drops. Slowly at first, then picks up speed fast. We plunge 450 stories straight down. It's the longest elevator ride on Earth.

The cage rattles and whistles as we descend, the air gets more humid the deeper we go. Our lifeline to the surface is a machine called the manwinder, massive coils of steel rope two inches thick that attach to the cage and unspool faster and faster. We dropped two miles in a couple of minutes and emerged in an underground city.

To get to the gold, miners must walk miles through a vast maze of dimly lit tunnels. Sometimes you're lucky and can catch a ride, but mostly you just walk. For Leroy Lee, it's in the blood. His father worked in the mines. Now it's his turn. His family depends on his job.

The gold in these ultra-deep mines is found in narrow veins, laced through the rock. Some are no wider than a pencil. It's cramped at the rock face and we crouch alongside the miners as they work hunched over in the dark. The noise from the drills is deafening. Massive air conditioners cool the tunnels but it can still reach 120 degrees down here.

At the end of the shift, we had to rush not to miss the elevator back up. It doesn't wait for anyone.



And here's where all that breaking rock pays off: the smelter. The ore is smashed and pulverized in a grinder before being fed into a furnace. Monga Kasongo, who runs the operation, told us we were the first TV crew to film the weekly ritual they call "the pour." We all had to wear these special pajamas with no pockets so we couldn't steal anything. The heat was intense as the furnace reached almost 2,000 degrees. The gold turned to liquid and poured down into the moulds.

Monga Kasongo: When I saw it the first time, I was like "wow." That's something that keeps me going. When you hear people who have never seen gold or touched it, I feel like I'm more privileged.

These bars will be refined again to 99.99 percent purity before they're sold for coins and jewelry. The mine used to process about 60 tons of gold a year. Now it's just a quarter of that. Still, the day we watched the pour, there was a pretty good haul.

Read more : https://www.cbsnews.com/news/south-africa-gold-mining-what-lies-at-the-bottom-of-one-of-the-deepest-holes-ever-dug-by-man-60-minutes/
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