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Abandoned Mines

Danger! Abandoned Mine. Stay out! Stay alive!Abandoned mine sites are a great safety hazards. Many of these structures contain dilapidated frames, open shafts, and water-filled pits. The dangers that are found in the mines include old explosives, hazardous chemicals, bats, snakes, spiders, bobcats, mountain lions and other predators.  Falls and cave-ins are common in these old mines.

Don’t use an abandoned mine as a trash dumping ground. Few people would deliberately walk close to the edge of a skyscraper’s roof, just as no one should walk close to the edge of a mine shaft. Falling down a shaft is as potentially lethal as falling from a tall building. Falling in a shaft for even a short distance can cause serious injury or even death. The entire area near an opening is often unstable and may cave into the shaft at any time, carrying an unwary trespasser with it.

The dangers associated with mine tunnels, or adits, are not always as obvious as with shafts. Anyone entering an old adit risks injury or death. Mine tunnels frequently have shafts in them that are covered with boards. These timbers may be hidden under dirt, fallen rock, or other debris. The weight of a person on these old boards might cause them to collapse without warning, sending the victim tumbling deep into the shaft.

A rescue team at an abandoned mine site.Pools of water may conceal deep holes in the floor of a mine tunnel. Deep water is also found in many shafts. One false step can lead to a disaster.

Cave-ins are unpredictable. Often, areas most likely to cave-in are the hardest to detect. Minor   disturbances, like the vibrations from footsteps or from speaking, can cause cave-ins. The sudden crush of falling earth produces either serious injury or instant death. Perhaps even more terrifying is being trapped behind a cave-in with little or no chance of rescue; in effect being buried alive. Death comes through starvation, thirst, or gradual suffocation.

Byproducts of meth labs contaminate their surroundings.While timber supports may appear to be in good condition, they might actually be very loose and ready to fall apart at the slightest touch. A mine opening might appear well timbered and solid but actually be supported by wood barely able to hold its own weight. Anyone walking in the tunnel risks the danger of accidentally touching a timber and causing the passageway to collapse.

“Bad air” is one of a miner’s greatest fears. While most dangers are obvious, air containing poisonous gases or insufficient oxygen cannot be detected until too late. Poisonous gases accumulate in low areas and along the floor. Walking into these low spots causes the good air above to stir up the bad air below, producing a potentially lethal mixture. Standing water absorbs many gases. These gases will remain in the water until it is disturbed. This can happen when someone walks through it. As the gases are released, they rise behind the walker where they remain as an unseen danger when the person retraces his steps.

Adi with an old wooden structure beside itEven experienced miners hesitate to handle old explosives. They realize the ingredients in explosives will deteriorate with age and can detonate at the slightest touch. Many abandoned mines contain old explosives left behind when the operation closed down. Innocent looking sticks and blasting caps are potential killers. The best advice around explosives is “Do not touch or go near it.”

Although a mine may appear abandoned it does belong to someone and trespassing laws do apply. Anyone rescued from an abandoned mine may face criminal trespass charges. Tools, equipment, building materials, and other items on mine sites are not to be taken. Those who remove equipment are subject to prosecution as thieves. Warning signs are posted for everyone’s safety. Vandalizing signs or removing them is a Class 6 felony and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

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