News Release

For Release:  Oct. 15, 2008                
Contact: Cheryl Seath (760) 872-5024

Bureau of Land Management in Bishop Plans Blasts to Close Abandoned Mine

Residents of the Rudolph Ranch housing development and travelers along Highway 6 north of Bishop may hear sounds of the Southern Belle Mine being blasted closed Tuesday.

The residences are located about three miles away from the site. The blast will sound like a sonic boom, and smoke may be visible for about five minutes after the blast.

"The Southern Belle mine area is a set of abandoned mine workings, including numerous surface pits and other openings. These present a serious hazard to human safety," said Cheryl Seath, Bureau of Land Management geologist in the Bishop Field Office.

In 2006, BLM constructed a bat-compatible gate on one shaft and discussed methods to close the other 17 hazardous openings found within the main canyon area. Openings at three sites are so unstable, due to the extremely brittle rock and crumbly soil surrounding them, that it would be impossible to construct bat-compatible gates. The openings are too large and on too steep a slope to carry foam for a solid closure.

"Consequently the only safe and effective method of closure is to blast these openings shut," Seath said.  Bats have been excluded from the sections of mine being blasted.

The Southern Belle mine and mill site saw production of gold and silver from 1893 through 1937, according to U.S. Bureau of Mines production records. The mine workings have several portals connected by more than 3,900 feet of shafts, tunnels and other underground structures. Surface workings include numerous pits. The New Year shaft is reported to be 260 feet deep with development on three levels.

For more information, contact Seath at (760) 872-5024.