Brazilian Man Plummets 130 Feet to His Death Into a Hole He Dug in His Home to Search for Gold

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Jan 27, 2024

How far would you go for gold? Unfortunately for João Pimenta da Silva, who believed there was gold hidden beneath his house in Minas Gerais, Brazil, the 71-year-old man plunged 130 feet to his death in a homemade tunnel.

Why did Pimenta believe that there was gold under his house? Let’s get into it.

Elderly Man Digs An Impressively Large Hole

Pimenta started to dig his 130-foot-deep hole sometime in early 2023. According to reports from his neighbors, Pimenta believed that he had been visited by a “spirit” in a dream who told him that riches lay just beneath his feet.

Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Source: Adelano Lázaro/Wikimedia Commons

“João had spent more than a year digging the hole and hired many people to do the excavating work,” a neighbor, Arnaldo da Silva, told local media.

How Large Was the Hole the Man Fell Down?

Despite warnings from his neighbors, Pimenta started to dig a straight-down tunnel in his home that grew three feet wide and 130 feet deep. For comparison, this hole was the height of a 12-story building.

The tunnel eventually grew as deep as a 12-story building is high.

Source: Corpo de Bombeiros Militar

De Silva said Pimenta “sold everything he had in search of that gold,” including several pieces of real estate. Why did Pimenta sell everything? He needed extra help.

Pimenta Hired People To Help Him Dig

The project became too much for Pimenta to do on his own, so he began paying people to help him. “He began by paying 70 Brazilian Reais (roughly $15) a day when the hole was still shallow but the deeper he went the more the costs went up,” da Silva explained.

Construction Workers Working Together

Source: Jerome Govender/Pexels

“He ended up paying around [$100] to anyone who entered the hole and helped to remove earth,” da Silva added.

The Dig Takes an Explosive Turn

Pimenta’s search for gold became complicated as the project went on. After hitting a large stone deep in his tunnel, the 71-year-old started to try and acquire dynamite to help find the gold faster.

Three sticks of dynamite on the ground

Source: Kordite/Flickr

While standing on what the fire department reported to be a repurposed child swing, Pimenta slipped and fell down the hole.

There's No Gold at the End of the Tunnel

Pimenta’s friend, Antonio Wilson Costa, was with Pimenta when the 71-year-old fell to his death and could not help him. Despite the tragedy and the lack of gold, the authorities who arrived at the scene had a few thoughts about the hole.

Worms Eyeview of Well

Source: Filipe Delgado/Pexels

The 2nd sergeant of the Minas Gerais Fire Brigade, Luís Filipe de Miranda, told the Estado newspaper that Pimenta was likely an experienced excavator who likely had professional help.


The Authorities Say the Tunnel Looks “Alien”

“This tunnel looks like something alien, with the perfection with which he dug it: very small diameter, very perfect cylinder, 40 meters deep,” Miranda said. Images of the hold from the fire department’s Facebook show that the hole was barely bigger than one grown human.

Silhouette of a humanoid at the end of a tunnel

Source: PickPik

Miranda said that although the equipment used was “archaic” and “homemade,” the vertical tunnel cut was “perfect.”


Everyone Is Stunned at Pimenta’s Work

Getting down the hole, however, was terrifying. “We found compressors, specific jackhammers used for tunnel digging,” Miranda stated. “It’s a science to get down. Very complicated, but he had experience. We don’t know what he did in this regard.”

Stacks of gold bars on a white background

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Unfortunately, Pimenta never found the gold he was searching for, and it is unlikely that there was any gold in the first place.


There Are More Tunnelers Out There Than You Think

Strangely enough, Pimenta was not the only person digging a massive hole. 37-year-old Kala from Virginia, also known as “Tunnel Girl,” started documenting her step-by-step process of building a tunnel underneath her house.

Kala, known as Tunnel Girl, working on her tunnel

Source: @engineer.everything/TikTok

Kala started the project in October 2022, and posted more than 75 videos on her TikTok, gaining over 5 million likes.


Who Is Tunnel Girl?

Kala, who is a self-proclaimed “engineer,” has spent over $50 million on her 30-foot-long tunnel. Also known as Tunnel Girl, Kala has been building a tunnel for fun.

Kala, known as Tunnel Girl, working on her tunnel

Source: @engineer.everything/TikTok

Kala told the New York Times that she started the project because she wanted to do something that was “technically challenging and would require me to learn a lot of new skills.” However, not everyone in Kala’s town of Herndon approves of her tunnel project.


“Tunnel Girl” Had to Stop Her Project

Unfortunately, her hometown officials have asked Kala to stop the project after her account’s popularity brought the project to their attention. A statement from town officials says, “The town is working with the property owner to correct any violations and ensure that the property is safe and in compliance with the code.”

Kala, known as Tunnel Girl, working on her tunnel

Source: @engineer.everything/TikTok

While the project is currently on hold, Kala is trying to get the project up and running. With the permit applications and blueprints submitted, Kala is waiting for an answer.


People Dig Tunnels as a Hobby

Hobby tunneling has been a longstanding pastime. Usually, hobby tunnelers use their hands or equipment to achieve a certain degree of completion. Sometimes, tunnels are only discovered by chance, but social media has been making these hidden tunnels more well-known.

Forestiere Underground Gardens at 5021 West Shaw Avenue, Fresno, California

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Most people dig tunnels for fun, while others believe there might be gold beneath their feet. If you are a hobby tunneler, take the necessary precautions and get those permits from your town! And be safe, my mole friends.