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MSHA News Release No. 97-0606
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Friday, June 6, 1997

Ignoring the Dangers in Abandoned Mines and Quarries Can Prove Fatal

How can something so intriguing be so deadly? That's the question hikers, recreationalists and swimmers should ask themselves before venturing into one of the thousands of abandoned mines and quarries scattered throughout the country. According to the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), dozens of people are injured and killed each year from accidents that occur at inactive underground mines, sinkholes, pits and quarries.

"We cannot emphasize enough the dangers that lurk in abandoned mines and quarries," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health. "Now that the warm weather has arrived, quarries are more alluring than ever. But these are anything but safe swimming holes."

Hidden beneath the icy cold and deceptively deep waters may be pieces of mining equipment left behind after a quarry operation shuts down, including old machinery, barbed-wire fencing, ropes that entangle swimmers and sharply edged glass.

"Unsuspecting swimmers may develop cramps from the frigid temperatures, and divers often miscalculate the depth of the water entirely, which can lead to tragic consequences," said McAteer.

Abandoned underground mines also prove to be an irresistible draw for thrill seekers. But they contain hazards of their own, including decaying timbers, loose rock and vertical shafts that can collapse at any time. They harbor undetectable and deadly gases such as methane and carbon monoxide, and poisonous snakes and insects often make their homes in these dark and secluded places.

Many of these daredevils -- they tend to be adult males under 40 -- have little regard for such dangers. "People of all age groups should heed this warning, but we realize it's hard to convince those who repeatedly flout the rules," said McAteer. "Consequently, if we can educate young children before they ever develop a taste for such forbidden adventures, we may save a lot of lives."

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