In the comments from one of yesterday’s posts, there was discussion about exploring old abandoned mines and the risks that they entail. I’ve taken photos of a number of abandoned mines over the years — or at least the entrances. We don’t go into abandoned mines anymore due to the dangers they represent.
Among other things, the very signs that are posted to warn you of the dangers may be missing or mostly eaten by marmots and other critters, such as the sign at the opening of this mine shaft (below).
There may be widespread flooding, like in the top image and the bottom image. Or cave-ins, like in the rear of the top image.
Mines are very deadly places to go exploring and I can’t emphasize enough that they should be avoided at all costs. Below are just some of the dangers they may contain, according to the US Department of the Interior / Bureau of Land Management website:
Open Shafts are vertical mine openings that can extend hundreds of feet to the lower level of a mine. Open shafts can be concealed by mine debris, dirt, rock, and even water.
Unstable Rock and Decayed Support includes once solid beams and frameworks that have decayed for more than a hundred years. In many cases, there may be no support beams at all and the fractured roof or walls of the mine tunnel eventually collapse in response to vibrations and/or the force of gravity.
Deadly Gases and Lack of Oxygen can be present in abandoned mines that are not ventilated. Pockets of methane, carbon dioxide, and other deadly gases can form or simply displace oxygen with no visible sign. When these gases enter the body, muscles stop responding normally, thinking becomes clouded, and unconsciousness and death can occur.
Explosives and Toxic Chemicals were often left when an active mining operation was abandoned. Explosives such as dynamite and blasting caps become very unstable over time, and can explode if disturbed. Storage containers, boxes, barrels, and drums deteriorate allowing toxic chemicals to leak or combine into highly dangerous mixtures.
Horizontal and Vertical Openings can be miles of openings that randomly follow the original ore veins. Within a short distance of the entrance there is no light, and these openings can be the cause of becoming lost and disoriented inside a mine.
Highwalls and Open Pits are located where large areas of the surface have been disturbed to get at minerals near the surface. Open pits can be filled with water that can be highly acidic or laden with harmful chemicals. Highwalls can be unstable at the top and the bottom and are prone to collapse. When approached from the top, the vertical edge of a highwall may not be seen in time or may crumble, leading to a fatal fall.
And if you find yourself in trouble, rescuers may not be able to help you — as in this tragic event:
So stay away from them. Most deaths associated with abandoned mines are due to people underestimating the dangers that they face and getting complacent. Admire them from a distance, but don’t go inside.