Abandoned underground mines may harbor hidden openings that drop hundreds of feet. Rotting timbers and unstable rock formations make cave-ins a real danger. And lethal concentrations of deadly gases can accumulate in underground passages.
The water-filled quarries, which claim the most lives through drownings, have slippery slopes and unstable rock ledges. The water might look inviting on a hot, humid summer afternoon, but under the surface may be old machinery and sharp objects left behind after a mining operation closes.
Even good swimmers can face trouble in the dangerously cold and deceptively deep waters. And there are no lifeguards on these properties to come to the rescue.
Sand and gravel pits are popular with ATV, but they often contain hills of loose materials in stockpiles or refuse heaps that can easily collapse and cause deadly rollovers.
“As schools begin letting out for the summer, there are more opportunities to explore the great outdoors,” Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, said in a prepared statement issued earlier this week. “We want our kids to stay safe and be aware that mines are not playgrounds.”
MSHA launched its “Stay Out-Stay Alive” public safety campaign more than a decade ago to educate people unfamiliar with mining about the hazards that exist around these sites, and every year since then it has issued a warning to outdoor enthusiasts about them.
Main said three people died at Ohio quarries last summer. A 16-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man drowned in quarries near Columbus, and a 38-year-old woman died of injuries suffered while scuba diving in one in northeast Ohio.
Nationwide, from 1999 to 2008, there were 259 fatalities at active or abandoned mines. None of the people who lost their lives were employees of mines.
Thomas Jones, a star running back with the Kansas City Chiefs and last year’s spokesman for MSHA’s safety campaign, grew up in southwestern Virginia, where his parents were coal miners. He admitted to the lure of adventure offered by mine exploration during his early years.
“We didn’t realize the dangers, and there were some close calls,” he said in a news release from MSHA officials. “When you’re a kid, you’re adventurous and want to check out places like old mines and quarries.”
Main called Jones the ideal spokesman because as a professional football player, young people will listen to him and stay away from mines and quarries.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236, or email@example.com.