WPR News
8:46 am
Wed September 5, 2007

Wyoming Has Plenty of Dangerous Abandoned Mines

Laramie, WY – Last weekend, an Arizona girl was killed when she drove her off-road vehicle into an abandoned mine. A state official says the same thing could happen here.

From Rock Springs to Sheridan, Marcia Murdoch says abandoned mines are spread across Wyoming. Murdoch works for the state's department of environmental quality. She says hundreds of sites need to be addressed. Some are 50-foot century-old coal mines. Others like uranium pits in the Gas Hills are much deeper.

"The depth of the pit, the high wall, which is like a cliff -- is about 350 feet up. There are a few with flooded pits where you would land in water from that distance," Murdoch said.

Murdoch says these mines can appear without warning, trapping hikers or motorists. Her department has 25-million dollars a year to close them down, but she says the half a billion dollars the federal government owes Wyoming in abandoned-mine money will help significantly reduce the hazards. The state is looking forward to how that money will be dispersed. First payments are scheduled for next month.