A labyrinthine underground passageway snakes for roughly half a mile beneath the Pacific Ocean. With its lack of artificial ventilation and tremor-prone nature, this former mine is no place for the faint-hearted.
Accessed merely yards from the pounding Pacific surf, a chilly wind accompanies the daring descent into the Devil’s Blast (El Chiflón del Diablo), an abandoned coal mine near Concepción. After it opened in 1857, the mine was soon given its diabolic forename by the intrepid miners who worked this underworld in truly hellish conditions, braving toxic gases, low oxygen levels, and frequent earth tremors.
The second part of the Devil’s Blast’s name recalls the unique way it was naturally ventilated via the action of strong coastal breezes. These fierce gusts still whistle and howl through the pit’s narrow, forbidding entrances and tunnels. It was one of the only operational mines in the world that didn’t rely on some form of an artificial ventilation system to protect the miners from suffocating.
The Devil’s Blast employed 3,000 people by the time it was closed in 1997. The site was re-opened as a visitor attraction in an attempt to entice tourists to Lota, which, with the demise of the Chilean coal-mining industry, had lost its main employer. Today, tours of this labyrinthine netherworld are conducted by former miners and last between 30 minutes and two hours.
In 2009, the Devil’s Blast was designated a “National Monument” by the Chilean government. In February 2010, a massive earthquake measuring 8.8 on the richter scale caused damage to some above-ground parts of the attraction, but the mine tours recommenced the following year.