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Release Number: BMFO-2004-41
For Release: September 29, 2004


On September 20, a diverse team of individuals assembled on the outskirts of Tonopah, NV, to close abandoned mine shafts. Five days later this team had eliminated 43 extremely dangerous abandoned shafts, some hundreds of feet deep, by refilling them with the same rock material that historic mine operations had removed years earlier. All of these sites were located within township boundaries and adjacent to, or in the middle of, roads and Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) trails used extensively by the public.

During the course of the work, nine new hazards were found and backfilled after the required research and clearances were conducted. Research is done to determine whether or not the sites are located on public land and are free of mining claims. Newly discovered sites are logged and ranked for location, type, and degree of hazard and are screened for protected plants.

For this project, the next step involved the work of biologists from the Nevada Natural Heritage and Nevada Division of Wildlife, as well as observers from the Nevada Division of Minerals, the Nevada Mining Association, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which surveyed sites for bats and other wildlife to ensure that habitats would not be compromised if the shafts were filled. In some cases, netting is placed across mine shaft openings to prevent animals from entering after a survey. Archeologists investigate the existence of historic or prehistoric cultural features to be documented and avoided. Dozers then fill in mine shaft openings. The last step in the process involved the removal of protective fences that are recycled for use at other mine sites.

The team was composed of BLM Nevada Abandoned Mine Program Lead, the Chief of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Section of the Nevada Division of Minerals, the Environmental Affairs Director of the Nevada Mining Association and an archeologist from the BLM Tonopah Field Station.

Few public dollars are spent in the actual abandoned mine closure procedures thanks to the support of the mining industry and other volunteers. For example, under the coordination of

the Nevada Mining Association, Mary Kaye Cashman of Cashman Equipment, donated the use of a large dozer. Paul Delong Trucking furnished a heavy lowboy truck and driver to move the dozer from site to site, and Round Mountain Gold Corporation supplied an expert dozer operator. The Mining Association also paid for fuel.

Abandoned mine accidents are decreasing even though Nevada’s population is greatly increasing as is the popularity of outdoor recreation, especially OHV use. Much of the credit for this effort and other backfill projects in Nevada goes to these cooperators who are now nationally recognized as the model for AML safety work. In 2004, Nevada conducted nearly half of all backfills in the West and eliminated more mine hazards than any other state.

- BLM -

Last updated: 03-26-2015