Thousands of potentially dangerous deserted mine workings from the past dot Nevada’s landscape, but the state’s Abandoned Mine Lands program has been securing these sites for 30 years, decreasing related accidents and fatalities.
Over the years, people have fallen into old mines or drowned in old pit lakes, but there have been no reported accidents at abandoned mines in more than three years, thanks in part to the program. “These aren’t playgrounds,” said Robert Ghiglieri, chief of the abandoned mines program for the Nevada Division of Minerals. “It’s not worth the risk to go into these.”
From 1961 to 2011, 20 people died in accidents at abandoned mine sites. The last fatality occurred March 2011, when a 28-year-old man fell 190 feet down a mine shaft in Pershing County. The last reported abandoned mine accident was in 2013, when a 17-year-old male incurred minor injuries in a fall down a 60-foot mine shaft in Lyon County.
Miners and prospectors have looked for minerals in Nevada for more than 150 years, traveling across the state and leaving behind mine shafts, tunnels, pit lakes and mill sites. Old-time miners had no construction standards to follow, and they just took the gold or silver and got out as quickly as possible.
Modern mines in Nevada are required under state and federal regulations to reclaim mining sites after mining ends and eliminate or secure any potential hazards. Companies also post reclamation bonds ensure that the work is done.