The honor of thus pleasing cranky old Stalin went to Yuri Khabardin, Ekaterina Elagina, and Viktor Avdeenko, who, while on an expedition, noticed that the ground under their feet contained kimberlite, a volcanic rock that proliferates in diamond-rich South Africa. And their hunch was correct. They were standing on very profitable ground.
Problem was, they were in Siberia, where it’s really, really cold. So cold, in fact, that the ground is frozen for seven months of the year. This would have been an unscalable obstacle for anyone but the Soviets.
The Mir (Russian for “peace”) mine went operational in 1957. Workers warmed up the permafrost with jet engines, and when that didn’t work (it’s very cold in Siberia), they dynamited it. By the 1960s they were extracting 10 million carats of diamond a year.
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