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BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 549

The Calico Hills Abandoned Mine Lands Project

Summer 2012

a man stands next to a metal framework covering an old mine shaft in the desert
BLM Geologist Jamie Livingood stands next to a new cupola installed over a dangerous mine shaft in the Calico Hills.  (photo: S. White)

The historic mining of hardrock minerals -- such as gold, lead, copper, silver, and uranium -- was a powerful incentive for exploration and settlement of California.   Mineral development often provided the economic base on which many remote communities, like Calico, were established.  But when ore bodies were mined out and miners left to find other new deposits, they often left behind a legacy of abandoned mines -- adits, shafts, and trenches.

A primary goal of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the California Department of Conservations Abandoned Mine Land Unit (DOC) is to provide a safe experience to the public when they are visiting public lands located in the Calico Mountains. The BLM and DOC have another primary goal: to assure that mining-related features and facilities abandoned on public land are remediated to minimize damage to the natural environment – while recognizing and protecting the historical importance of selected features and facilities.

Many of the mines in the Calico Mining District were constructed between the 1880s to the early 1900s, including the St. Louis Consolidated prospect (St. Louis Mine; St. Louis Consolidated Mine; Consolidated Extension Mine).  This mine -- like many around it -- can harbor hidden openings that can drop many feet down.   “Rotting timbers and unstable rock formations make falls a real danger” says Jamie Livingood, Geologist at the Barstow Field Office.

“In the fall with cooler temperatures we see a steady increase in visitation. There are more opportunities to explore the great outdoors," said Sterling White, BLM California Desert District AML Program.  "We want our publics to stay safe and be aware that mines are not playgrounds."   Over thirty dangerous mine features have been remediated this year in the Calico Hills, while more remediations are planned.

BLM may take temporary measures to mitigate against physical safety hazards, such as by posting warning signs and fencing.  Additional remedial measures include closure of adits and shafts, backfilling of highwalls, drainage of impoundments, removal of leftover equipment and debris, and reclaiming to help offset erosion and improve stability.  If during the site characterization BLM determines that remedial activities may have historical, cultural, or wildlife impacts, these must be addressed in conjunction with the remedial activities. To mitigate impacts to bats, gates and cupolas are often installed using designs that allow wildlife access to the underground.

The history of the Calico Mining District has been described by many authors, including: Weber (1966); Payne, J. G., and Glass, J. R., 1987; and many others.

- Sterling White, Abandoned Mine Lands and Hazmat Program Lead, BLM California Desert District (September 2012)

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 549 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.

Last updated: 09-20-2012