Scattered throughout the country are thousands
of abandoned mines. Many of these sites date from the 1800’s…some have been closed and
sealed off for public safety; however, many others are still open and can be deadly to
an unsuspecting explorer. Oh, check it out!
It’s really neat inside. Come on, this is going to be cool! Come on.
I’m scared, I don’t want to be in here guys… More and more people of all ages and descriptions
are venturing out on to lands once rich with mining operations. Today, Federal and State
agencies are doing their best to protect people from abandoned mine hazards. As the popularity
of outdoor recreational activities grows, the number of encounters with abandoned mines
and their dangers dramatically increases. I didn’t want to be a chicken, so I went in. I’ve done this a lot, it’s no big deal. It looked really inviting; I didn’t know it
was dangerous. My dad does this so why not? It’s a family
thing. We went in, thought we would just come right
out. I started going into mines when I was only
10 years old. Big deal. Sometimes you just do stupid things, I couldn’t
back out now. I had to do it. It was raining and I thought the mine would
be safe. My friends dared me to go into the mine, so
that’s what I did. I’ve done this a million times. What could
happen? I just went into the mine because I was curious.
I didn’t know anything bad could happen. There is no excuse. Now, more than ever, you
must learn to protect yourself and those you love. You must:
STAY OUT AND STAY ALIVE In Nevada, on July 4, 1998, several young
men found an abandoned mine. The mine entry had been vandalized and they thought it would
be fun to explore. They videotaped their dangerous journey.
As you see, Brent is pointing out “Stay Out, Stay Alive.” It’s a good point, but
we’re not too smart, so we’re gonna go anyway. Danger (also written)
This is an unsafe mine. DANGER. I do this all the time.
(Laughs) Come on!
There are abandoned mines in almost every state. Today with the increased use of recreational
lands, exploring abandoned mines has become a temptation hard to ignore. Abandoned mines
are alluring, mysterious and intriguing, but they can also be treacherous and terrifying
death traps. The lure to adventure can be fatally misleading. Abandoned mines are unstable,
unpredictable and unsafe. One thing we know is… about 30 people will
die this year exploring abandoned mine lands. If you look at all this (bleep). There’s lots
of rocks and stuff that has fallen from the ceiling which indicates that it’s probably
not a good idea to be walking this way, and uh…
Well, they’ve already fallen, so they’re not going to fall again.
Well, there’s more to fall still… Without any warning, rotten timbers can give
way. Wooden supports, ladders and hidden shaft covers can all crumble under a child’s weight.
The roof and side walls can collapse with a mere brush of an arm. A cave-in can block
your escape, or even worse, crush you. Inside a mine, it’s pitch black. Mines can
be honey combed with miles of horizontal and vertical tunnels that randomly follow an ore
vein. It is easy to get lost. Those who have been stranded in a mine will tell you it’s
something they can never forget, but would rather not remember.
Yeah, we gotta remember where we’re going. Ok, we’ve got an out here.
These X’s and stuff. Grant, what do they mean?
Dead ends and stuff. Okay, they’ve all got an X on them.
We go this way. That one’s got an X, but it’s also got that.
What does the diamond mean? Mines are created by drilling and blasting
and are not natural features like caves. The explosives and blasting caps that were used
to create these mines were sometimes left underground. Old explosives or blasting caps
are extremely dangerous: they can be set off by simply touching or stepping on them. You
may not see them before it’s too late. Sometimes when a mine was closed the mine’s
operator simply told the workers not to come back to work the next day. The explosive charges,
workers had set, but hadn’t yet exploded; still remain just as they were left.
Explosives can also be found near abandoned mines. They were often stored away from the
mine’s opening but near the mine operation. Dynamite becomes less and less stable through
time….and just moving or touching the dynamite can set it off and kill you or maim you for
life. If you do find dynamite or blasting caps, don’t touch them. Call the sheriff.
Wow! Look at this! Dynamite!
Don’t touch it! Abandoned structures and equipment are hazards.
Old equipment can collapse due to decay. Equipment can roll trapping you or causing serious cuts,
broken bones or even death. Abandoned mines also provide shelter for a
variety of animals and insects. This abandoned mine in Utah is a retreat for a black bear
and her cubs. Snakes, mountain lions, and bats may use the dark recesses of an abandoned
mine. Underground mines can be essential habitat for such animals. You should not disturb them.
They could startle you, throw you off balance, causing you to fall or scare you deeper into
the mine. Oxygen-deficient air, toxic gases and explosive
gases can build up in mines…this can be fatal. Mines are not caves. Caves have natural
ventilation. Don’t ever assume that just because you don’t feel, taste or smell gases in an
abandoned mine that they aren’t there. You can’t smell or taste most toxic gases, but
by the time you feel their effects you may be near death. Where’s that go?
It goes down, a long ways Ooh, that’s not a little
Well, it’d be kind of hard. If you slipped and fell, you could catch yourself before
you actually fell down there. Not if panic set in and you screamed like
a little girl. It started as an ordinary day outing in the
mountains near Lake City, Colorado. A Texas man along with his girlfriend and her son
entered an abandoned mine. The man enjoyed doing mine exploration and took pride in the
fact that he had been in a number of mines in this area. The man laughed when his girlfriend
and her little boy left the mine early. They left the tunnel early in the incident,
because the little boy was feeling sick, and after the gentleman did not come back out
of the tunnel, they re-entered it. The little boy felt sick again, came back out, and she
started driving back toward Lake City, flagged down a vehicle and asked that person to report
the incident. We sent a crew into the tunnel using air packs with a gas analyzer. The air
was unsafe a very short distance into the tunnel. The victim reached a pocket of just insufficient
air in this particular situation there were not, necessarily a level of noxious gas to
create death, uh, but there was insufficient oxygen concentration to sustain life. So the
victim lost consciousness, passed out. Autopsy results were such he did not have any water
in his lungs even though he was laying face down in the water for an extended period of
time. Um, he had already…his systems had already shut down before he hit that water. And the hardest part of this whole thing was
having to tell her with the six year old son standing there that he was no longer alive. Our people are at risk for any rescue, but
especially a mine rescue. It is probably of all the things we do it is the most hazardous.
Not a good place to be. Not a good place to be….is right. Professionals
who inspect mines use special meters to check the air. They do this because conditions inside
abandoned mines change through time. They can change day to day; they can even change
hour to hour. People can also affect the air supply within
the mine. Smoke from your campfires can penetrate into the deepest areas in mines creating an
atmosphere void of oxygen. Since abandoned mines are not ventilated,
the natural decay of radioactive minerals can result in a build-up of radon. This radiation
at extreme or continued low level exposure can damage your lungs and other organs like
your eyes. Hazardous waste may also exist on abandoned
mine sites. Open drums or barrels can contain toxic materials. Do not taste or smell what
is in them. Mine waste dumps may contain toxic materials
which if inhaled or ingested can cause cancer. There can also be water in a mine. Water can
be contaminated and deep. In the darkness, dust and old timbers can cover the water and
make it look like solid ground, but when you step, you could be stepping into a deep pool.
Water from abandoned mines can be polluted which degrades the environment. This affects
the local watershed and can even affect your drinking water.
In an abandoned mine, you never know what will happen next. They are unstable.
Mine shafts are deeper than you think. Some are as deep as a one hundred story skyscraper
is tall. Imagine falling over one thousand feet. It can happen if you stand near an old
mine shaft. The ground around shafts is often unstable and can easily crumble away, sending
you plummeting hundreds of feet to the bottom. Sometimes you won’t even see the shaft, so
be aware of where you are and what the hazards may be.
Large water-filled pits and quarries are another deadly hazard. Overtime these pits and quarries,
overgrown with trees and grasses, have filled with water. They look like beautiful lakes
or recreational areas–a perfect playground; but they are fatal. Each year, dozens of people
are injured or killed in quarries. One particular quarry located in the southern part of Pennsylvania
is a very eerie place for the mother who lost her son in the deep waters.
We received a call that Jeremy was possibly gone, and we came down to the quarry to see
what was going on. And when we got here, there were ambulances. The road was blocked and
they actually wouldn’t let us come back into the quarry, because they were searching for
Jeremy’s body. And after that day we never saw Jeremy again. Abandoned pits may look very inviting when
you first get to them….it’s the blue water, it’s the vegetation, they look nice they look
like a recreation lake but they represent and contain serious hazards. Underwater obstructions,
like rocks, ledges, abandoned equipment, broken glass, steep slopes, sheer high walls, all
put the visitor in danger so no matter how inviting an abandoned pit of water looks,
it’s a serious hazard and it needs to be treated like a serious hazard. Swimming in an abandoned pit or quarry is
probably one of the most dangerous things you could do. The deep waters of these quarries
contain extremely cold water that could cause fatigue and cramping. Even good swimmers can
drown in these cold waters because their bodies go into shock. The jagged rocks hidden underwater
make diving very dangerous, and the steep cliffs surrounding the water make it very
difficult for swimmers to escape. We’ve had the experience of pulling out numbers
of fatalities and it does not make it any easier as many times as you do it. His brother just graduated and Jeremy was
not able to be there to see his brother. Ahh We have been through many obstacles. It’s
been very hard living without Jeremy. And those experiences that Robin has gone
through for her and her family, ah it hits you in the heart because you know you can’t
imagine what it is like not to have your child come home for dinner.
Hi mom, I might not make it back. Yeah, sounds like it.
Mom and dad, forgive me. A tragedy for a group of teenagers occurred
in the Book Cliffs near Grand Junction, Colorado. The mine behind me is the Book Cliff Mine
which the state of Colorado sealed in 1986. Approximately three years later the feature
was vandalized. The steel door which was constructed had a lock box which actually was cut, and
several weeks apparently after it was vandalized, six high school students went into the mine.
Five students went in very deep, approximately three to four-hundred feet. One turned around
actually before that point. Four went in a little further and at that point three of
the students came across an oxygen deficit area called black damp, where one of the individuals
actually got above that, that location in the mine and survived where in front of him,
his fellow three students died right in front of him. The community of Grand Junction was hard hit
by this incident. Parents and friends of the victims set up a memorial near the Book Cliffs
Mine. Stuffed animals, cards and letters were left, along with a wooden sign. To this day,
flowers and cards are still left at the mine opening.
Got some pipe. Oh wow! We have to climb that? Yea, you’re gonna be the lucky one to fall.
This is going to America’s Funniest when somebody falls.
That’s a good idea. Alrighty, oops, that’s an old table.
Don’t touch that. I hope the rope is still there.
Where do we step? Come look at this ladder, I don’t think I
ever climbed down that. It’s down to the main shaft.
Wow, so we’re climbing down this rope? Yeah.
How far down? How are we getting out of it?
Climbing up it. I see.
Who’s got bad rope climbing skills? I’ve climbed ropes before
There’s a little ledge, you can… How far down does it go?
All the way down to that ladder, see where it’s going now, like a good 30 feet.
Where am I gonna hook this? Doing it like he’s doing in your mouth.
How am I gonna get this thing down there? But how am I gonna get it back up?
I’ll give you my belt. Strap it on. Adam! Oh (bleep)! Adam!
Did he fall? Yes! Adam! Adam! Oh God! Oh God! Somebody
help! Adam! The Younger man fell approximately 65 feet.
The thrill of danger became only too real as he laid unconscious in the mine for several
minutes. Hurt and scared, he had to wait several hours in the dark before he was rescued. This
Younger man was lucky. Unfortunately, most people who enter abandoned mines don’t come
out alive and their stories are becoming all too commonplace.
Part of the problem with abandoned mine lands is that many of the dangers that are on the
site aren’t readily apparent to the eye. Obviously steep cliffs, we can all see those but you
have unstable slopes, you have mine openings that may look inviting but when you go inside,
you’ve got rocks on the roof that can fall. You’ve got old timbers and you have hazards
that you just can’t detect when you stand there and look at them and I think the thing
that people don’t realize is you can’t outsmart an abandoned mine lands danger.
One of the difficulties with mine exploration, I mean, for many people, it is intriguing.
There is a high level of curiosity and there is just a mentality that you know this is
open ground and this is fair game for exploration. The legality of the facts are, mines are private
property. I mean it is trespassing to be on the mine property in the first place and more
importantly very few people have the training or the equipment to be entering into a mine
safely. There are inherent risks even if you are well trained and equipped properly. In
our area here in western Colorado there are several well run mine tour operations which
I think can bridge that gap for people that want to see what hard rock mining is about.
But do it in a safe controlled atmosphere. So by all means, don’t go spelunking in the
mine shafts. You’re, there is too much at risk, too high a price to pay.
You can do your part by being aware of the dangers.
Know your surroundings and remember that abandoned mines are unstable, unpredictable and unsafe.
It’s not worth the risk, just Stay Out and Stay Alive.
Today, there are many agencies working together to remove the dangers of abandoned mines nationwide.
By working in partnership, state and federal agencies are able to address the physical
safety and environmental hazards these sites pose to the public and the environment. This
collaborative effort allows the agencies to stretch their dollars and accomplish more.
However, it will still take a long time to safe guard all the hazards found on abandoned
mine lands. In the interim, you may be asking yourself
how you can help. You can help by warning others of the dangers of abandoned mines and
staying out of abandoned mines. Respect private property and “Do Not Trespass” signs. In addition,
when you find a closed mine, do not vandalize the closure. Those mines were closed because
they were extremely hazardous. Besides, how would you feel if a person died in a mine
because of your vandalism? Also, the money spent re-fixing a once closed mine means other
openings won’t be closed. You can also help by reporting abandoned mine openings to your
local land managing agency, such as the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National
Park Service, state abandoned mine programs, local sheriff or the Office of Surface Mining.
The crumbling remains of mines tell a story, they are a piece of our history, a link to
the past. They take us to a time when in the west, historic mining towns were centers of
wealth, fashion and high society. In the east, coal mines were the life blood of hundreds
of communities. Tales of those who struck it rich in the mountains
lured more and more miners to the west in search of precious and base metals. Small
mines appeared out of nowhere and were abandoned just as quickly, if they proved to be worthless.
Coal mines in the east fueled the railroads and the western expansion of miners and others
into the frontier. When these mines were abandoned there were
no reclamation laws. It was common practice to leave the mining operation intact and just
walk away. Not until January 1st, 1981 were there regulations requiring the reclamation
of mining operations on public lands. Most state reclamation laws were adopted in the
middle to late 1970’s. Mining continues to be an integral part of
the world’s economy. Mining provides the raw materials used to make the things we use every
day. The house you live in, the bicycle you ride, the television you watch, the compact
disk you listen to and the computer you use would not exist without mined materials. Cars,
medicine, refrigerators, washers all require materials that are mined. When you think about
it, most things you use every day exist because of mining.
Modern reclamation laws assure that current and future mines will be reclaimed. However,
the mines abandoned prior to these laws, remain unstable, unpredictable and unsafe, so please,
STAY OUT AND STAY ALIVE.