Mine Safety

By Jake Brouwer

1. The first rule of mine safety is, DO NOT ENTER. No kidding, I know you probably just hiked miles to get there, but is it worth your life or limb just to see a cold, damp, rock-walled tunnel? If you absolutely must go in then do so in pairs and leave someone at the entrance to go for help. Go with a professional if you can.

2. Mines can be the home to many creatures that you may not want to meet under any circumstances, let alone in the darkness with one route of escape. To name just a few, Black widow spiders, scorpions, raccoons, bears, and the not so friendly rattlesnake. Snakes are a particular hazard in shallow shafts and shafts with near-surface work levels.

Peering over the edge of a 55 foot shaft is not a good idea3. A mineshaft can be very deceptive. Because there is little or no light in the hole most people do not hesitate to peer over the edge and look in. Normally with a feeling of height the reaction is to "pullback" but with shafts and the lack of light, the height is not so evident. The fall into a shaft however can be just as lethal as falling off a sheer cliff.

4. The timber in old mines is usually decayed. Often it has the appearance of a perfectly good piece of wood when actually it could be crushed with just the squeeze of the hand. Timber is often loose and will fall at the slightest touch. Quite often a well timbered mine will give you a false sense of security as these timbers also are probably rotten. Ladders often have rungs missing and any weight at all can cause them to fall apart.

5. Winces are sunk in the floor of the tunnel and are usually boarded over. If these boards are decayed it is a perfect trap waiting for an unwary victim.

6. Many mines have standing water in them or small steams flowing out of them. It is impossible to see the bottom making it a great danger that you could fall into a wince or other deep hole. Water often lies at the bottom of shafts making you a possible drowning victim.

7. Many abandoned mine shafts and tunnels contain explosives left behind by careless workers. Explosives should never be handled by anyone not thoroughly familiar with them. Even old time miners won’t handle them, as they are extremely volatile.

8. Cave-ins can happen any time. Small disturbances or vibrations caused by walking or speaking can cause a cave-in . Rock is often decomposed and the timbers rotten leaving the shaft or tunnel primed for just the right conditions to cave-in.

9. Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide often collect in low area of the mine and along the floor in horizontal workings. Motion in the air caused by walking in can often stir up these gases and cause them to mix with the good air making it a lethal combination.

As I said in #1, it is always best to stay out of mines as well as caves and water tunnels. If by chance you find your self in a predicament in the Altadena area try to reach 911 or Altadena Mountain Rescue.


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Last modified: February 12, 1999

No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without written permission from:
Jake Brouwer
All articles and photos were provided by:
Land-Sea Discovery Group
Copyright 1999