Preserving Cultural Resources and Ensuring Public Safety in Nevada’s Abandoned Mine Lands

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mine2Nevada is riddled with abandoned mines that can prove to be extremely dangerous, and these are the subject of an ongoing effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Nevada Division of Minerals (NDOM). Of some 200,000 abandoned mines in the state, it has been estimated that a full quarter (50,000) are potentially hazardous to the public. Mines are being closed to reduce the threat to the well-being of recreational users of public lands and to enhance the wildlife habitats at these sites. Closures, however, do provoke concern about the cultural resources of the sites. Archaeological artifacts and cultural features associated with these sites can provide an insight into Nevada’s rich mining history. Consequently, operating under the National Historic Preservation Act, GBI personnel have assisted the BLM and NDOM in the meticulous task of documenting these resources. GBI’s Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) team visited each site tagged by the BLM for closure in order to describe and photograph mining hazards and any cultural resources that would be impacted during closure. The team recommended approaches to hazards, assessing the impact of different methods, including the use of heavy equipment to push waste rock into the mine opening. They also assessed the impact that closure methods might have on wildlife activity at the sites.

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