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MSHA News Release No. 95-023
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: (703) 235-1452

June 22, 1995


The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a strong warning to explorers who enter abandoned mines. Two men died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning recently in an abandoned limestone mine on the eastern shore of Lake Pend Orielle in Kootenai County, Idaho.

"Abandoned mines are incredibly hazardous places," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary for mine safety and health. "There is limited breathable air, the roofs are often unsupported, and pockets of methane gas make explosions a very real possibility."

The bodies of the two men were discovered on June 10 by Kootenai County Rescue personnel and the Sunshine Mine rescue Team. Rescuers came upon evidence that campers had recently built a fire near the portal, which may explain the high concentration of carbon monoxide.

The mine has not operated since the early 1900's and is accessible only by boat. It is located on federal land.

Each year, explorers, hikers, recreationalists and even pets who wander into abandoned mines, pits and quarries are seriously injured or killed. Consequently, MSHA regularly cautions residents of mining communities of the dangers that exist.

In recent years, three Colorado teenagers exploring an abandoned coal mine were overcome by poisonous gas after falling into a rock quarry. A Connecticut boy died of massive injuries after falling into a rock quarry. A Missouri boy broke his back after falling into an abandoned sand mine.

MSHA continues to urge mine operators to seal and fence off abandoned mines from the public.