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A wood encased entrance to an old mine on the Pike National Forest.
An entrance to an old mine on the Pike National Forest. (USDA Forest Service photo)

Some 40,000 abandoned mines are on Forest Service lands. Of that number, 34 percent were mines with records of mineral production such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc that can cause human health and environmental problems. The boom and bust of mineral development left a mixed heritage that now serve as historic resources, wildlife habitat, acid drainage and safety hazards.

Each year, a number of people are killed – in 2012 there were 15 reported deaths, mostly by drowning – or injured in abandoned mines on public and private lands nationally. The Forest Service works to minimize the human health and safety hazards of abandoned mines while preserving the historic and wildlife habitat resources they provide. But you are responsible for your own safety.

Abandoned mines can be above or below ground. Both are extremely dangerous and pose the following safety hazards:

  • Loose or falling rock

  • Unstable ground

  • Old explosives

  • Cave-ins

  • Hazardous chemicals

  • Water-filled pits

  • Dangerous animals and insects

Entering an abandoned mine can lead to serious injuries, and even death.

Stay out, and stay alive.

Learn more about mines

Learn more about how to stay safe


Remember: You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those around you.