This Is What All The Metal Extracted from a Single Mine Looks Like as a Massive Sphere


There are precious metals and gems all around us. But have you ever wondered just how much metal comes from the mines we dig to extract the ore from which the final product is made? Maybe not… but one photographer did, and he created the photo series For What It’s Worth to share his findings with you.

The project was undertaken by Cape Town photographer Dillon Marsh, whose work we’ve featured once before on PetaPixel. In For What It’s Worth, he attempts to quantify mining because, as he puts it, “[it’s] an industry that has shaped the history and economy of the country so radically.”


Creating these images was a two-step process. First, he went out and captured five photographs of five famous mines. Then he looked up data from those mines, gathered excavation rates for each mine, and used a rendering engine (along with some adjustments to account for scale) to create a solid metal sphere in each photo that represents the approximate amount of material excavated in comparison to the size of the mine itself.

“Mines speak of a combination of sacrifice and gain,” he explains in the project’s statement. “Their features are crude, unsightly scars on the landscape—unlikely feats of hard labour and specialized engineering, constructed to extract value from the earth but also exacting a price.”

His images beg the question of whether or not the value extracted justified that ‘price.’




Currently, the five images he has up were all taken at/created about Copper mines. But as the project carries on, he intends to do the same with other precious metals, rocks, gems and even coal, so be sure to keep an eye out for further updates by heading over to his website or giving him a follow on Behance.

(via OhGizmo!)

Image credits: Images by Dillon Marsh

  • beautox

    Where else you going to get metal from?

  • Valenten

    Quite accurate. For more expensive resources, like Rare Earth Elements, the recovery factor is lower than 1 per thousand….

  • Bob

    The next question being: “Do we really need so much stuff?”

  • beautox

    OK try living without using metal and let me know how you get on. Or maybe not – not possible to post a reply without metal, as electronics tends to need it. Like most things.

  • Kurt Langer

    I think mines and the ruins of mines actually create awesome landscapes. I think this photographer thinks so as well.

  • StronglyNeutral

    I appreciate the conceptual nature of this work. I feel that somehow showing a little more of the surrounding, natural, untouched landscape would benefit the point the artist makes. We catch glimpses, but from what I see in these images, the contrast between the natural and this scar seems unremarkable. I’m not saying the true natural impacts within the ecosystem aren’t great, just that visually, it isn’t terribly striking to me. The mines definitely should not have been left in this state, that is for sure.

    Also, as someone who is familiar with the surface mining industry, with thoughtful regulation, I can attest to the fact that there can exist a rare, productive compromise. Mining with proper reclamation can result in obtaining the desired minerals, whilst reclaiming the land to a state that is as good, or better shape, than pre-mining (LOTS of variables here, not true in all cases, just saying it can happen with the right variables). And the only reason I raise this point is: I don’t believe it necessarily has to be one or the other. Mining or no mining at all.

  • Markthetog

    I think what he is trying to point out in his work is that while we may need the metal, we have a habit of taking the metal and leaving a great fat mess behind.

  • Essloyd

    It’s almost always worth the price.