Interest in exploring abandoned mines has exploded in popularity in recent years. Everyone from urban explorers to amateur archaeologists and cave enthusiasts are increasingly visiting and exploring abandoned mines all around the world.
Much of this interest stems from social media influencers like Frank from the Exploring Abandoned Mines and Unusual Places Youtube channel which has over 400 thousand followers. As more people are exposed to this hobby, interest in mine exploration will continue to grow.
But exploring mines is not as simple as it sounds. It is as dangerous as it is thrilling and there are several things you should know before you decide to venture into one yourself.
Is it legal to explore old mines?
In short, no. Although you may think that a mine that’s out in the middle of nowhere might be abandoned, the mine may actually be on someone’s property and trespassing laws still do apply. If an old mine is on government land, it is most likely taken over by the Bureau of Land Management or a similar government entity.
Entry to private property is still illegal unless you have explicit permission from the landowner where the mine is located. If you’re looking to explore a mine it is best you seek permission from the landowner before making your way in.
Oftentimes landowners will place ‘No Trespassing’ signs at the entrance of the mine to deter anyone from entering. If you were to make your way in and have an accident that requires rescuing from the authorities, you could face criminal trespassing charges.
It’s better to be safe and ask the owner of the land if you can access the mine before making your way in and risking prosecution.
Why do people explore abandoned mines?
Visiting and exploring abandoned mines is a lot like urban exploration. Mine exploring appeals to curious and adventurous people. The thrill and excitement of documenting and experiencing firsthand the history of a forgotten location can be very appealing to many.
Old mine exploring tends to attract only the fearless of explorers. People who are willing to go that extra mile to see what others have not seen for many years. People explore mines because the place contains a history of mining activity when miners would search for gold, silver, copper, and other precious elements.
Mine exploring is also attractive to amateur and professional archaeologists wanting to get samples from the underground without doing much of the digging themselves.
How to safely explore mines
Common sense when exploring abandoned mines goes a long way. Being aware of your surrounding and maintaining a calm demeanor is vital. Cautious and methodical exploration will always allow you to safely go in and come out of a mine with no harm. When exploring mines you should have proper mine exploration equipment and do the following:
- Never explore a mine by yourself. Use the buddy system and always make sure someone knows where you are and who to call if they don’t hear back from you.
- Watch your step. When in a mine you should always be alert and on the lookout. Unstable ground could be covered in dirt or rocks.
- Carry the proper equipment. Mines are dark, take a flashlight with spare batteries. Wear proper clothing. Take some hand gloves. Take a first-aid kit for emergencies.
- Avoid collapsed areas. Over time the weight of overlying rocks can cause mines to collapse. These areas should always be avoided.
The above points are a few safety precautions you should be aware of when in a mine. Keep your safety in mind at all times and don’t take risks. Your safety when exploring mines should always be your number one priority.
Dangers of exploring mines
Abandoned mine sites are a huge safety hazard. Many of these mines are old and abandoned, some possibly filled with hazardous chemicals. Government officials have for years tried to discourage people from venturing into abandoned mines.
But this hasn’t stopped people from entering them and getting seriously injured, often requiring a costly and lengthy rescue operation. If you’re going to be exploring a mine soon, be aware of the dangers. Many of the dangers of exploring mines include the following:
- Water-filled quarries you can easily fall into
- Vertical mine shafts hundreds of feet deep hidden from view
- Water or soil contamination
- Low oxygen levels or poisonous gases
- Old unstable explosives left behind
- The remoteness of the mine means no mobile phone coverage
- Wildlife and insects may be present
The above dangers are only a small sample of the many dangers that are present in abandoned mines. Anything can go wrong while you’re exploring and that could lead to injury or death. Mine exploration should never be taken lightly.
What can be found in a mine?
All mines are different. Some contain old abandoned tools, equipment, building materials, rails, locomotives, crushers, ball mills, and other items left behind that were used during mining operations.
Other mines contain nothing at all. Regardless of what you come across during a mine exploration, you should remember the explorer’s motto: “Take nothing but pictures, leaving nothing but footprints”.