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MSHA News Release No. 99-0510
Mine Safety and Health Administration
CONTACT: Amy Louviere
Phone: 703-235-1452

Released Monday, May 10, 1999


Active and abandoned mine sites can be an irresistible -- and sometimes deadly -- draw for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly children and young adults. Despite repeated warnings, posted signs and fencing, tragedies involving accidents on active and abandoned mine property continue to make headlines, especially with the arrival of warmer weather and the approaching end of the school year.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), has joined with other government agencies, industry and labor to educate the public about the dangers of exploring and playing in these forbidden areas.

Stay Out - Stay Alive, a nationwide public awareness safety campaign, will run from

May 16-31, 1999. During this two-week period, MSHA and its partners will marshal grassroots organizations to reach out to schools and community groups across the country. Armed with instructional materials such as videos, stickers, coloring books, posters and fact sheets, speakers will balance their discussions between the positive aspects of mining and the hazards that lurk within the confines of quarries, refuse and stock piles, and mine openings.

"Any locale with active or abandoned quarries, mines or pits could become the scene of the next tragedy," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health. "This month, mining community organizations are reaching out to schools and communities to spread the message: Mine sites make lousy playgrounds and swimming holes."

MSHA has established a site on its web page to serve as a central clearinghouse from which mine hazard awareness materials and resources may be downloaded. The web address is Links to related sites put even more tools at the disposal of any group or individual interested in participating in this safety awareness campaign.

"I strongly encourage organizations to get on board with MSHA and its partners in this campaign," said McAteer. "Let's work together to avert these kinds of tragedies."

Over the last few years, there have been dozens of tragic incidents involving children and adults venturing onto active and abandoned mine property. They include:

-- A 16-year-old youth suffered fatal injuries after his all-terrain vehicle became airborne in an accident at a gravel mine near Albany, N.Y.

-- A young boy was electrocuted when he contacted a high-voltage power line while sliding down a stockpile at a sand and gravel mine in Grand Island, Neb., during its off-shift hours.

-- A 39-year-old man drowned while swimming in an abandoned quarry in Mecklenburg, Va. He and two children had trespassed by climbing a fence surrounding the quarry.

-- Three young sisters playing in an abandoned East Milton, Fla., clay pit became trapped when a 20-foot-high ledge collapsed during a rainstorm. All three died after being buried by dirt and boulders.

-- A 20-year-old man broke his arm and suffered facial cuts as he fell 60 feet down an abandoned coal mine shaft while hiking with several friends near Johnstown, Penn.

Abandoned underground mines often contain decaying timbers, loose rock and tunnels that can collapse at any time. They, along with active mines, may harbor undetectable and deadly gases such as methane and carbon monoxide.

Unsuspecting swimmers who flout warnings against swimming in rock quarries may develop cramps from the icy temperatures, and divers may miscalculate the water's depth. Beneath the surface, pieces of mining equipment may be left behind after a quarry operation shuts down, including old machinery, barbed-wire fencing, ropes that entangle swimmers and sharply edged glass.