The Mponeng Gold Mine in South Africa is the deepest gold mine on Earth.
That unholy mess of a pit runs up to 2.5 miles deep, and its 236 miles of tunnels house a ridiculously massive underground complex. Every day, 4,000 workers are lowered into the mine in giant, three-story, 120-person cage elevators. Due to geothermal heat, the temperatures in the lower levels of the mine can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
This Mordor hellpit is already surreal enough, then you factor in the hordes of “ghost” miners – criminal miners who have managed to enter the pit and set up shop for their share of the gold. These illegal workers have created their own shadow economy deep within the confines of the earth, trading everything from bread to sex (add “underground hell-mine prostitute” to the list of most terrifying professions on Earth). They live there, eat there, and keep their own peace … with AK-47s and improvised beer-bottle grenades. As for the mining company’s security guards, they mostly leave the ghost miners be, because the place is far too vast to police efficiently, and also … well, we did mention the beer-bottle grenades, right?
This little shadow society is coming to an end, though: The mine is due to run out of gold in about 7-8 years. So there’s nothing left to do but return to the surface … right?