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MSHA News Release No. 99-1209
Mine Safety and Health Administration - USDOL
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: 703-235-1452

Released Thursday, December 9, 1999

MSHA Establishes Toll-Free Hotline to Report Unsafe Access to Mines

How can something so intriguing be so deadly? That's the question hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, hunters and swimmers should ask themselves before venturing into one of the thousands of active or abandoned mines and quarries scattered throughout the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), dozens of children and adults are injured and killed each year from accidents that occur at active and inactive underground mines, sinkholes, pits and quarries. Some are thrill seekers while others unwittingly wander onto these potentially dangerous properties.

In an attempt to pinpoint unsafe access to both active and abandoned mine sites and to publicize the potential dangers, MSHA has established a toll-free number for concerned citizens to report them.

MSHA has enforcement authority over active mines, while abandoned mines fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Surface Mining, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service. Some state agencies oversee both active and abandoned mines.

Concerned citizens can report unsafe access to mines by dialing 1-800-499-1038. Callers will be instructed to leave a detailed message and a number where they can be reached for a non-emergency situation. Emergency situations are handled separately and immediately.

MSHA determines if the mine site is active or abandoned. If the mine is active, MSHA staff will conduct an onsite investigation and take the necessary action to remove any hazards. If the mine is abandoned, MSHA will contact the government agency with jurisdiction over the site, pass along any relevant information and document the outcome of the activity.

Abandoned underground mines often contain decaying timbers, loose rock and tunnels that can collapse at any time. Along with active mines, they may harbor undetectable and deadly gases such as methane and carbon monoxide.

During the warmer months, swimmers who venture into rock quarries may develop cramps from the icy temperatures. Divers often miscalculate the water's depth. Beneath the surface, pieces of mining equipment might be left behind after a quarry operation shuts down, including old machinery, barbed-wire fencing, ropes that entangle swimmers and sharply edged glass.

For further information about MSHA's efforts in mine hazard awareness, visit the Agency's home page at www.msha.gov and click on the "Stay Out – Stay Alive" button.