Will the world end by getting sucked down a black hole in Siberia? We’re a long way from that but getting closer every day, according to people living … or formerly living … near a sinkhole in Solikamsk, Russia, that has quadrupled in width in just nine months with no sign of stopping, closing up or taking a break to belch. Where is Solikamsk disappearing to?
On November 18, 2014, Uralkali – the largest potash fertilizer producer in Russia – evacuated thousands of workers from its Solikamsk-2 mine in Solikamsk, a seasonal cottage community about 1,000 miles northeast of Moscow that is built entirely over the Solikamsk-2 and Solikamsk-1 potash mines. Flooding caused a sinkhole to open near the mine measuring about 30 meters (100 feet) across. No one was injured but local residents were nervous as the company told workers to stay away until things settled down.
Which they haven’t. The flooding continued and by February 2015, the sinkhole had grown to 87 meters (285 feet) across and 75 meters (250 feet) deep and was swallowing cottage homes like a hungry kid eating gingerbread houses. The company said the mine was “stable” but mining operations stayed halted while crews continued to pump brine out from one side to fill up the other, shore up walls and salvage equipment.
That didn’t help. By August 24, 2015, the sinkhole had become a gaping chasm measuring 125 meters across and filling steadily with abandoned cottages. Nothing new has been done so it’s expected that the sinkhole will continue to grow.
It’s estimated that the mines still contain 150 million tons of potash, making it one of the largest reserves in the world. It’s a safe bet that Solikamsk-2 will have to eat a lot more of Siberia before Uralkali abandons the mine and all of that potential fertilizer.
What good will all of that fertilizer do if the sinkhole swallows everyone who would have eaten the food?