SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Mining is part of the past and present in Utah, but when a mine closes, it often leaves behind deadly reminders of our mining traditions. ABC 4 News is taking a deep look underground into Utah's abandoned mine dangers.
The signs are clearly posted. They say "Danger", or "Stay Out," but some people aren't paying attention and it puts their lives at risk.
Exploring an abandoned mine might look like fun, but too often the unexpected happens and a trip underground turns to tragedy.
“It's just not safe to go exploring these things,” said Tony Gallegos with the State of Utah's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.
Gallegos explained how there are death traps everywhere, inside and out.
“It could actually cave in on you,” said Gallegos about one mine opening.
There are timbers and rocks ready to collapse. One mine was closed with a bat gate but someone broke it open so they could get inside.
“We put up the gate to keep people safe,” said Gallegos.
But once someone gets inside?
“So rock fall, roof fall, something from the side, the ribs could come in,” said Gallegos.
Or you might think your walking on the ground but it's actually really old wood covering a shaft straight down called a Winze.
“Something that drops hundreds of feet and you wont even see it until you step across it and it collapses,” said Gallegos.
And the deadly traps don't stop there.
“There’s another hazard you’re not even going to see, like the lack of oxygen,” said Gallegos.
There's numerous other ways to die inside an abandoned mine, including unexploded unstable explosives, and often they are home to wildlife like mountain lions or bears.
“There are too many hazards, too many risks, it's just really not worth it,” said Gallegos.
With the population growth in the valley and more and more homes being built the Salt Lake Valley has expanded. It puts the mines closer and closer to neighborhoods.
There are an estimated 17,000 open abandoned mines in our state. These maps show you just how close they are to your home.
“You could walk right up on these things without even realizing it,” said Gallegos.
They are easy access for your kids. They are easy access to dangers that could kill them.
“You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach like, ah that didn't have to happen,” said Gallegos.
According to the state of Utah, 10 people have died and 41 injured in abandoned mines since 1982.
They've closed some mines using steel and concrete, gates or back filling an opening.
“There's a chance someone's going to get hurt and you really don't even want to have one,” said Gallegos.
There are thousands more open abandoned mines in Utah, all filled with dangers that can kill you.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Gallegos.