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Stay out of that old mine! - in the open air


It seems like the most adventurous thing in the world. That dark breach in the hillside beckons, tantalizes, excites. What wondrous assets await discovery inside? What artifacts might continue in this time capsule, mute acknowledgment to an era when graying men moved tons of rock in pursuit of their dreams? Such is the poetic, romance-novel allure that might induce you to take leave of your senses and crawl into an old mine. Thousands of such small openings are scattered all over the country. Even if most collective in the historically "hard rock" Western mining states, they can also be found in the old lead and copper districts of the Midwest. In reality, manifold dangers lurk away from the pale ring of light that filters all through the adit mouth.

While scoping out a field area for a thesis project, I spent six weeks camping and mountain climbing in the West Elk Mountains, in the Colorado Rockies. My days were spent tramping about the flanks of a magnificent 13,000-foot peak, preferred due to enticing information of silver mining action about 1900. At some point in my ramblings, I came athwart numerous old mine workings. Some were austerely short adits determined into the hillside, calculated to test for the authority of silver, copper, and lead mineral deposits that might be dispersed inside the associate zone of the porphyry disturbing that definite the mountain peak. Other workings, although small, were fairly more advanced and had rail tracks extending from the passageways out onto the little by little extensive pile of fine waste rock. I explored each of these, every so often crawling over piles of rock that had fallen from the roof or ribs, or widening a hole and sliding down the pile of washed-in dirt to reach the adit floor.

This exceedingly was the height of folly, as I was alone in the wasteland and had no idea of the aptitude dangers. I at present work in the field of argument be in command of engineering, and have from the horse's mouth data of many sufferers that occurred in dynamic mines when rock fell out of the roof not including warning. I have also befall more comfortable with the broad manufacturing blueprint work, and array of aid systems, compulsory to arise and be adamant a mine opening. The "old timers" were often lucky by increasing small openings in hard rock, but contemporary mining commerce indicates that time does not favor stability.

A more insidious jeopardy is represented by a lack of breathable air. In sealed underground openings, the air may have befit "stale" by not being circulated all through the outside. In advanced mines, a staff is affectionate to conniving and maintaining exposure to air systems that cycle fresh air because of the mine. Some gases move oxygen, but are drab and neutral and give no admonition of hazard until the character abruptly realizes that they feel as despite the fact that they have been asset their breath for quite a few minutes. This is a acclimatize known to miners as "black damp" that can cause loss of consciousness or death. While running in Bolivia, I entered over a dozen small mines in a area that had been residential at first by the Spanish, or i don't know even the Inca, and later by a Clean mining trick in the early 1900's. The most contemporary act had bunged in the 1980's, when the underground portion of the mine was abandoned as uneconomical, but a small open pit was urbanized that intersected some of the old workings. As a geologist running to come undone the environmental description of this area, I entered the mine to deed the relationships amid invasive phases. As I was carefully concentrating on the last face of the mine, frustrating to choose if the rock was rhyodacite or dacite, I rapidly noticed a warm, tingly, numb sensation in my nose and lips. Panicked, I exhaled what diminutive air remained in my lungs and held my breath, while at the same time wheeling and sprinting back up the tunnel. Weird, ghastly shapes of rotten oil and timbers danced in the dark scared out of your wits by my flashlight. I had hardly hope of sprinting the all but 300 yards to the mine mouth, but as gray spots floated already my eyes, I dogged to keep my legs pumping to at least get out of what might only be a compact of bad air. Then I saw a slice of light where the floor of the open pit had intersected the tunnel. Fresh air! I ran to the cut and gulped in the thin mountain air. Even though the air smelled like decomposing sulfides, at least the menace of black damp was gone, and so my panic subsided an adequate amount of to allow me to walk fast out of the mine.

Crawling into an old mine, in which no miner or trick has evaluated the acclimatize for decades, is a touch that I would now believe as pure stupidity. No shiny glass decoration or rusty manufactured article is worth it. Take a conjure up of that beckoning hole, and then leave it alone. Bring to mind that the "old timers" have previously taken out the rock and dumped it on the broken up for you. Assure by hand with a diminutive piece of azurite, malachite, chalcopyrite, or pyrite from the dump pile if you must have a souvenir, but stay out of that mine!

About The Author

I am a geologist who has visited a number of countries in Latin America and Europe, and worked on a mixture of civil commerce and mining-related projects in the U. S. and elsewhere. I have available in logical journals, but belief it would be fun to write about some of my go experiences on a more informal level. I have other movies and geology items at my homepage, http://sedward. home. netcom. com/petrography. html

sedward@ix. netcom. com


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