By Sara Price
The Bureau of Land Management began their abandoned mine project nearly ten years ago. Planning, negotiating and engineer inspections are now complete and according to BLM representative Chris Conrad, the bureau is ready to take action.
Old mines will either be backfilled or gated off, protecting the public from possible dangers of exposed abandoned mine shafts. Conrad assured the Public Lands Council that everything is being done to preserve these sites. “The intent is not to ruin the fabric, but rather preserve the historic and natural aspects of the mining district,” Conrad stated.
“I want to watch them try to climb into some of those mine shafts that are way up there,” joked Public Lands chairman Edward Geary.
Conrad agreed and askedwhether the more difficult to access mines were worth the risk and danger. However, if they chose to close some and not others, the litigation could be big if someone were to get hurt.
Concerns were raised over whether these sites would be accessible to delegates visiting town, geologists and their students, future mining prospects and other interested parties. Conrad assured them that they have worked tirelessly to work in everyone’s interest.
Mines that possess structural integrity will receive gates and grates instead of backfill as a way to make access easy. Mines that are not structurally sound will have to be backfilled, but could be dug back out by a backhoe.
Conrad also stated that he could not decide “carte blanche” who could and could not gain access to the mines and that this will be done on an individual basis. He assured the council that the BLM is fully supportive of these activities and that they had a process for interested parties to reopen and actively mine these sites.
Private citizen Mr. Anderson owns a couple of mines on the BLM closure list. He voiced concern about access and future value of materials not currently worthwhile. He brought a zinc sample to support his case and explained that before 1920, it was worthless and frequently discarded. It was not until zinc was used in electric wires and car bodies that it became worth mining. Anderson would like to see kiosks set up with the history of the mine and area so that visitors can gain an knowledge of the site, rather than looking at a hill where all traces of a mine have been destroyed.
Conrad agreed and stated that they were not destroying the mine entrances like in the past. They would continue to preserve the sites.
Another concern was about bats and the well being of the creatures. A citizen declared that bats were important whether people liked them or not.
Conrad assured citizens that steps are being taken to protect the bats. Mesh will be placed at the entrance of the soon to be sealed mines, allowing bats to fly out but discouraging them to fly back in. This would prevent bats from being entombed in the mines and allow them to find another habitat. Mines that have become significant bat habitats will be gated instead, allowing the creatures to continue living safely in the mines. He stated that the BLM is looking out for their best interest.