BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 553

Stay out, Stay Alive! BLM El Centro Secures 18 Abandoned Mines

a man stands atop an OHV being hosted out of a vertical mineshaft by a crane
Recovery efforts retrieving the vehicle from the 2006 mine shaft incident.  This innocuous-looking abandoned mine shaft completely swallowed the vehicle. Photo: BLM

News.bytes readers may recall the photo above from 2006, as an off-highway vehicle was removed by crane from an abandoned mine shaft. The driver and passenger were trapped for 20 hours before being rescued. Luckily, the only injury was a broken arm.

Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has secured that abandoned mine shaft in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, dubbed Samurai/Suzuki Hill.

The driver in this case was travelling off designated routes. But abandoned mine features -- like uncovered holes, shafts or deteriorating mine entrances -- pose serious safety hazards to a number of recreation-related activities. 

How each abandoned mine is made safe depends on its condition and also the wildlife it shelters.  When the miners moved out, wildlife moved in. Some mines house desert tortoise, a variety of bat species, owls and an assortment of reptiles. Once the mines have been surveyed for wildlife use (and any historic or cultural resources), gates, cupolas or grates may be installed at the entrance to allow free passage for wildlife.  If the mine shows no indication that wildlife uses it, it may be back-filled with dirt, or filled with a polyurethane foam (puf).  All of these methods are designed to prevent the public from accidentally (or intentionally) entering these played-out mines.  As the Samurai/Suzuki Hill was not being used by wildlife, the El Centro Field Office used the ARRA funds to backfill the shaft.

Turkey Vulture Mine and Padre Madre Mine, both within the Cargo Muchacho Mountains in Imperial County, California, were also remediated.  A total of 18 abandoned mine features were made safe using the ARRA funding.

Visitors are reminded to travel on designated routes in these areas to avoid an abrupt and unwelcome encounter with an abandoned mine.  Should you find an abandoned mine, stay out!  Cave-ins, poison gases and falls are a few of the dangers these abandoned mines present. If possible, contact the El Centro Field Office with GPS coordinates of its location.  

For more information on abandoned mines, visit  For information on how to obtain off-road Routes of Travel maps for the El Centro Field Office, call 760-337-4400, or visit

one man watches as another attaches a cable to an OHV down in a rocky hole in the desert
An off-road vehicle finds itself 15 feet down an abandoned mine in 2006.  The driver was not traveling on a designated route and suffered only minor injuries. Photo: BLM

a hole in the desert floor has been filled in
Samurai/Suzuki Hill after remediation (above/below).  Photos: BLM
another view of the filled-in hole of the abandoned mine shaft

- Joya Szalwinski, Interpretive Park Ranger, BLM El Centro Field Office (October 2012)

BLM California News.bytes, issue 553 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.