Open Mines in Arizona

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This is an open mine in Wickenburg, Arizona. I ran across it a few years ago while taking pictures on one of my off-road adventures. The shaft is certainly visible, but there’s nothing protecting the curiosity of a child, or clumsy me who might get too close to the edge and fall in.

I threw caution to the wind anyway and pointed my camera down the shaft. All I saw was a ladder with broken steps that led into total darkness. I decided for the sake of a photograph this could easily turn into an unplanned trip to China, so my visit to the edge of this mine was very short lived.

The Facts

Arizona has an estimated 50,000 open abandoned hardrock mines, 22,000 of these occur on BLM managed lands. Undocumented… some figures suggest there could be as many as 100,000. Many of these unmapped, or unknown mines are open, meaning there are no fences, or boards covering the dangerous shafts.

Many are hidden in the brush out in the middle of nowhere, like the places where some people might hike, ride horses, or enjoy their ATV. Back in 2007, two young girls on ATVs fell into an open mine in Chloride Arizona, killing one of them.

What’s the Hold Up on Closing These Mines?

Better than half of abandoned mines in the Western United States are occupied by bats. Although open mines are a hazard to the public, it is crucial to preserve and manage the habitat of bat species, which may be negatively affected by mine closure activities.

Studies on a variety of environmental levels, including the impact on wildlife makes closing these open mines a slow process. How slow? Unofficially… about 12 per year.

Mine Shafts

Here’s a picture of what the less obvious danger of an open mine looks like.

Somebody volunteered to help cover this mine with whatever they could find to help save lives.  Hardly permanent, but it’s better than nothing.

While riding my horse I found a small mine in the mountain range behind my ranch. Interesting indeed! Luckily, it was securely covered. I spent the duration of my ride wondering about the history forever sealed beneath it.

Dangerous Open Mines
Described by AOH & Arizona State Parks

Approximately 29 people die each year due to accidents involving mine land features (2008, FAST). There are thousands of open mine shafts in Arizona. Please slow your speeds and keep a cautious eye out for mine shafts. Some roads/trails in Arizona were created by miners, and some roads were created without appropriate authorization from the land agency. Some roads/trails have a very deep open pit around the next turn. At one time, these abandoned mine lands were considered remote but due to urban sprawl and the increased ability of the public to access these sites accidents continue to occur. Many of these features are known to the public though not reported to officials. Other times an abandoned mine feature is discovered by accident. Be aware!

Update on the Wickenburg, AZ Open Mines

Today, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is better protecting the public after six deep shafts are filled and secured on public lands near Wickenburg, Ariz. The open shafts, ranging from 60 to over 100 feet deep, were abandoned nearly a century ago after gold mining ceased.

amy elizabeth, TBN Ranch

Arizona Off Highway Vehicle Program
Arizona Game and Fish Department
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10 Responses to Open Mines in Arizona

  1. Pingback: Wickenberg az | Jimrunsdorf

  2. bulldogsturf says:

    Oh man with what has been said before me I can’t compete… but how can mines as dangerous as that just be left open… I live in a third world country and we don’t allow it… kick some government butt if you ask me….

  3. Like nutsfortreasure above, I too am a prospector and metal detector enthusiast and love Az. I agree that an open mine has dangers for the unwary. The biggest problem as I see it is this;

    #1- The BLM controls the vast majority of non working mining areas. They are the ones who have left these abandoned mines unsecured. They then applaud themselves for covering up a few of them.

    #2- Many mines are on PRIVATE property and those who are apt fall into harm are trespassers and should not be there in the first place. but unfortunately end up being a victim of an abandoned mine statistic.

    #3- All abandoned mines should be reported. Local law enforcement can then pass the info on to the BLM and B of M.

    #4- Anyone looking for treasure should belong to a prospecting organization, I belong to the Gold Prospectors Assoc of America (GPAA). There are numerous local chapters and many other non affiliated GPAA clubs throughout Az. These are good, responsible clubs.

    #5- Many ‘mines’ are no more than a shallow dug area (many times only one foot deep) that was started and abandoned yet are counted in the BLM and BM’s statistics as an open mine.

    #6- Lastly… the vast majority of mines are only assessable by 4 wheelers or pack animal. While some are in folks ‘back yards’ it is still the responsibility of the land owners to clearly mark these mines. Private land owners should purchase unsafe mine warning signs and place them in clear view of guest and trespassers.

    Love your post my friend. All I can say to those who discover a mine is this, stay away from them open shafted mines if you are a novice, they can and will kill you!

  4. I am a prospector and metal detector and while out in AZ we always watch our step 🙂 NH even has open mines but scarier as they are hidden by trees and bushes. We like the AZ desert and all it has there. I too walk with my camera and actually go looking for mines and tailing piles lol

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