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Abandoned Mine Hazards in Nevada

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The Extent of the Abandoned Mine Problem
Hazardous abandoned mines, identified by signs, Death Valley National Park

Hazardous abandoned mines may be identified by signs like this one in Death Valley National Park.

Photo © Stan White

Nevada's abandoned mines are found throughout the state. According to the Nevada Division of Minerals, there are around 200,000 abandoned mines, some 50,000 of which pose serious public safety hazards. This trouble started brewing when mining began in Nevada around 1849 and went on virtually unchecked until modern regulations were adopted to stop the most serious abuses and hold mining interests accountable for cleaning up after themselves.

Thousands of Nevada's abandoned mines are on public land simply because most of the Silver State is under federal jurisdiction of one type or another. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages almost 48 million acres of Nevada's public lands, or about 67% of the state's land area. The BLM Nevada abandoned mine program uses various funding mechanisms and works with other agencies to remove physical and environmental hazards and permanently seal abandoned mines. The program has sealed and/or fenced around 15,000 of the most dangerous 50,000 sites in Nevada. The pace of closing mines with bat gates, filling in with dirt and rocks, or sealing with expanding foam is almost 200 per year.

Sources: Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Division of Minerals, Virginia City Convention & Tourism Authority.

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