What Is a Glory Hole?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

A "glory hole" is a term used in the mining industry to describe several different types of excavations that commonly occur during the process of creating an open pit, drilling a mine shaft, or using the block caving method of creating and managing a mine. Most methods of underground mining are likely to produce some sort of glory hole, although this type of open excavation can also be part of a surface mining project. The term is also sometimes used to describe the result of excavation as part of the work on a construction project.

Most methods of underground mining are likely to produce a glory hole.
Most methods of underground mining are likely to produce a glory hole.

One of the main characteristics of a glory hole is that the resulting excavated area is normally large and visually impressive. This type of excavation may be used in deep mining to create a mine shaft that opens a large and relatively open work space underground, allowing for relatively easy transport of collected ore, coal, or other materials to the surface. This is in contrast to a mine shaft that is somewhat narrow and does not allow for the use of heavy equipment to transport the mined materials to the surface.

A glory hole may be created as part of a construction effort.
A glory hole may be created as part of a construction effort.

A glory hole can occur in the form of what is known as an open-pit mine. This approach involves the creation of a wide pit through excavation that covers a considerable amount of area. Pit mining is common in many operations, making it possible to dig deeper in order to locate and remove the required materials. Technically, this type of mining may begin by digging a pit from the surface, or by digging in an underground chamber that was reached by drilling a shaft directly into the chamber.

Another example of the glory hole has to do with the block caving method. In this scenario, minerals or ore found in the ceiling of a mine shaft collapses directly into the shaft. As the material is removed, the ground surface over the shaft may become somewhat weak, eventually leading to a collapse that results in a large hole which exposes the shaft. The end result is a large open pit that can then be excavated from the surface for any remaining ore.

Along with mining operations, a glory hole can also be created as part of a construction effort. For example, excavating a tract of land in preparation for constructing a building may call for digging out an area that will ultimately contain a basement. When this is the case, the excavated area may be referred to as a glory hole.

The excavated area where a basement foundation will be built may be known as a glory hole.
The excavated area where a basement foundation will be built may be known as a glory hole.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I bet miners everywhere chuckle every time they have to say glory hole. Because they have to say it, right? Is there no way around that?


Isn't a glory hole where a man sticks his penis through a hole in a public toilet and waits for someone to... well, you know?


@NathanG - There aren’t any surface level glory holes being dug for residential projects in our area. That's because we don’t have basements where we live, so it’s pretty much all about laying surface foundation and building from there.

Of course commercial construction is a different story. I am sure that they clear away large tracts of land and dig holes for those projects.


@Mammmood - I agree, but not all collapses are accidental. As the article points out in the block caving method the shaft is deliberately collapsed to create the glory hole.

I am sure that if the hole is big enough that they use explosives as part of the process. I understand that to mine for gold requires massive holes to be created and dug.

The real gold is deep in the Earth’s crust so I imagine that they would need to dig a big enough glory hole.


It’s okay if the glory hole is created through a deliberate effort of excavation. It’s not okay in my opinion if it takes place as a result of an accident in a shaft where the mine collapses and a glory hole is exposed.

I say that because in that scenario miners could be hurt. We’ve had quite a few notable accidents where miners were trapped underneath as a shaft collapsed and buried the miners in rubble.

In that case the real glory hole created in the aftermath is nothing more than a place for a mass graveyard, certainly not an inspiration to continue mining in that area.

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