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Moab Khotsong mine claims to be home to the world’s deepest mine shaft: a 3000–meter descent at some 15 meters per second in a shaking cage, with only the arcs of head lamps piercing the darkness. It can be eerily quiet, and the air carries an acrid scent of burnt rock and ammonia from recent dynamiting. “It’s a smell that’d be associated with Hades,” says Tullis Onstott, a geomicrobiologist at Princeton University who has also joined the project.