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PHOTOS: Explorers tour US West’s old mines amid effort to seal them

October 30, 2018 GMT

An Arizona man’s fall into an old mine shaft this month put a spotlight on the hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines in the U.S. West.

They’re a legacy of the region’s prospecting past, when almost anyone could dig a mine and then walk away with little cleanup required when it stopped producing.

Work is underway to seal old mines in places like Utah, where people have died or been hurt after falling into them. Earlier this year, two missing teens were found dead in a Utah mine shaft after authorities say a man killed them and dumped their bodies.

In Arizona, prospector John Waddell plunged to the rocky bottom of a mine shaft Oct. 15 after the rigging he was using to lower himself broke. He spent nearly three days there, injured and hungry, before a friend heard his cries for help.

Still, some adventurers would prefer old mines stay open. For years, a dedicated subculture of well-prepared explorers has been slipping into the West’s abandoned mines — many more than a century old — to see their tunnels lined with sparkling quartz, deserted rail cars and caverns that open in the earth like hidden ballrooms.


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