ATLAS OBSCURA

New Uses for Old Mines

You may recognize the name Iron Mountain — it’s a major records management and data storage company, and their shredder trucks can be seen collecting documents at offices in many big American cities. These days, much of their business takes place in “the cloud,” but Iron Mountain got its start in 1951 by storing bank records inside the “Iron Mountain mine” in Livingston, New York.

There, the cavities and tunnels left behind by an old limestone mine were turned into an ultra-secure storage facility 220 feet underground.  The company originally did business under the name “Iron Mountain Atomic Storage,” highlighting their ability to keep your valuables safe in the event of nuclear attack.  Today in Pennsylvania, the company is using part of another limestone mine to test the potential of geothermal cooling systems for computer server farms.  

Around the world, people have taken over abandoned or disused mines and given them new life.  Sometimes mines are used for practical purposes, as with the Iron Mountain facilities, but others are more whimsical. In Colombia there is an entire underground cathedral crafted from salt, while Romania has an amusement park and art gallery underground. Others have been turned into medical clinics, shopping malls, government offices, and even a massive mushroom farm outside of Pittsburgh. 

Read the full, fantastic breakdown of repurposes mines, on Atlas Obscura!