Death Valley National Park - California
Watch Your Step!
If you're game for hiking these uniquely beautiful desert environs, watch your step. According to the National Park Service, there are at least 3,100 abandoned mineral sites in the national parks, with the largest number of hazards in Death Valley, Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. Risks include hidden openings and shafts, deadly gases in underground passages, unsafe structures or toxic and radioactive wastewaters and contaminated soils.
In 2008, the Department of Interior's Inspector General issued a blunt report concluding that federal agencies "are putting the public's health and safety at risk by not addressing hazards posed by abandoned mines on their lands." The report also identified "serious environmental and safety hazards where members of the public have been killed, injured or exposed to dangerous environmental contaminants."
In contrast to this situation, hazards at old abandoned coal mines have been remedied for more than 30 years with federal revenues from a fee of less than a penny per ton of coal. The 1872 Mining Law has no such provision for reclamation fees.
- Editorial Board, "Abandoned Mines: Close the Door on Public Hazards," The San Bernadino Sun, April 3, 2008.
- U.S. Department of Interior, Minerals Management Service, Minerals Revenue Management, Commodities Statistics for onshore coal, undated. (PDF)