BLM to step up efforts to close abandoned mines in Nevada

RENO, Nev. - Bureau of Land Management officials have announced a plan to speed up the closures of thousands of deadly abandoned mines across Nevada.

They estimate Nevada has at least 165,000 abandoned mines - possibly more than the rest of the nation combined - and about 50,000 of them are potentially dangerous.

The plan surfaces a year after 11-year-old Michelle Davies stumbled into an open mine shaft near Beatty and fell to her death. She was the 12th person to die in an abandoned-mine accident in Nevada since 1975.

''There are lots of ways to get killed in abandoned mines,'' BLM reclamation specialist Christopher Ross told the Reno Gazette-Journal. ''Falling is only one of them.''

In all, Nevada has 8,008 known abandoned mines, with 72.3 percent of them safely secured through fencing, locked gates or backfilling with dirt and rocks.

Clark County leads the way with 1,463 abandoned mines, and only 54.6 percent of them are secured.

Esmeralda County follows with 985 abandoned mines, 83.8 percent of them secured. Nye County has 800 abandoned mines, 66.1 percent of them secured.

BLM officials hope the recent release of an environmental assessment on the impacts of filling in open mine shafts can serve as an umbrella document, making many detailed studies of individual mines unnecessary.

''It's designed to speed up the process,'' said Alan Coyner of the Nevada Division of Minerals.

Under regulations proposed in the document, each mine targeted for backfilling would first be surveyed for historical significance and artifacts.

Biologists also would survey the mines to ensure closure would not adversely affect wildlife, particularly bats.

If a mine is determined to be significant bat habitat, it would not be filled in but closed through fencing or some other method.

Coyner and Ross said they're confident the new report will make the process of closing abandoned mines much easier.

What will continue to be difficult is simply finding all the old mines dug across Nevada since the mid-1800s, they said.

''These guys had a 150-year head-start on us and those old guys dug holes everywhere,'' Coyner said.


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