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Abandoned Mine Lands - Physical Safety Hazards

Since 2000, there have been 45 reported incidents at abandoned mines involving 14 deaths, 33 injuries or near-misses, and 14 pet or animal rescues.

A pick-up truck being pulled out of a AML mine shaft
A pick-up truck being pulled out of a mine shaft

Among the types of typical physical hazardous sites that contribute to these incidents are:

  • open shafts and adits (some concealed by deterioration or vegetative growth)  
  • sluice tunnels that contain; deadly gases and lack of oxygen; explosive and toxic chemicals
  •  highwalls 
  •  open pits. 
  •  encounters with wild animals (e.g.,  rattlesnakes, bears, mountain lions)
  •  exposure to bat droppings 
  • hantavirus, radon and radiation
To protect bat habitat and other wildlife, gates and cupolas are often installed at abandoned mine shafts and adits. To allow access to wildlife but not humans. 

The White Nose Syndrome is affecting bats and spreading westward and potentially affecting California's bat species. The AML program is taking measures to prevent the White Nose Syndrome from migrating into BLM public lands.

The BLM-AML program is taking measures to mitigate these physical hazards to make it safer for the public and the environment. For example:

  • adding fencing
  • posting warning signs
  • closure of adits and shafts
  • backfilling of highwalls
  • drainage of impoundments
  • removal of leftover equipment and debris
  • re-vegetation to help offset erosion and improve stability 

BLM performs inventories, a site characterization and environment analysis to determine whether or not site may have historical, cultural or wildlife issues. Remedial activities are then taken to eliminate the physical hazard, while taking into consideration these historical, cultural and wildlife issues.