Don’t let yours go into old mines |

Don’t let yours go into old mines

Bill Kight

The other day someone I know and care about mentioned going into an old mine to check it out and do a little exploring.It’s my hope and prayer that the knowledge I shared with them imparted enough wisdom to abandon such a foolish idea once and for all.Sometimes my job requires me to work around abandoned mines in order to properly record them before any reclamation work is done.Consequently, I had to attend a national Mine Safety Workshop in Wallace Idaho a few years ago to keep my training current.Colorado’s rich mining history has left our state with over 23,000 abandoned mines that are costly and time consuming to reclaim.For that reason the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety has been able to make only 7,000 of those safe.The problem is most people don’t realize how dangerous these old sites are.The very soil around vertical mine shafts and horizontal tunnels can be unstable. More often than not the old timbers that hold the earth in place with cribbing are rotten and ready to cave in at any time.You even risk your life by taking that first step into a mine tunnel because of deadly gases. Even gated mines are not safe.Not long ago I was up at Coal Basin with a geologist from the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology checking out a safety grate covering one of the tunnels.There in front of the grate were two dead birds. They had been overcome by a pocket of poisonous gases.Only four days ago 10 coal miners in China were killed from poisonous gas.Odorless carbon dioxide easily builds up to fatal levels in abandoned mines.Sophisticated and expensive gas meters are required to detect these gases and unless properly calibrated are worthless.If you make it past the mine entrance alive, the danger is only beginning.The heck with “Snakes On A Plane,” how about snakes in a mine? Or any other creatures that hide in the dark.Is there water on the floor? Take a few steps and you could end up falling hundreds of feet into a hidden shaft unseen because it’s under water.In order not to insult your intelligence I’m not going to warn you about the insanity of even thinking about touching any of the old unstable dynamite that might be lying around historic mining sites.For those adventurous souls who just have to go into a mine there’s a safe alternative. Take a historic mine tour. There are many available in Colorado.Visit and click on the picture of the mine on the page entitled “go subterranean with one of Colorado’s historic mine tours.”There you will find links to a host of mining tour sites that will give a safe but thrilling tour of Colorado history.So, if so much as the thought of checking out abandoned mines crosses your mind please let me know so I can help with your will.Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories and issues with readers every other week.

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