HARRISBURG – Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said two people died while trespassing at mine sites in Pennsylvania last year, despite increased efforts to educate the public about the dangers of mines and quarries. “These are tragedies that could have been avoided,” McGinty said. “Abandoned mines and quarries are dangerous places, and although the number of fatalities at these sites has dropped over the past two years, we are still troubled by these deaths. Our message to all Pennsylvanians is very clear: mines and quarries are not playgrounds; they can kill you. Stay out and stay alive.”
The most recent death occurred on Dec. 30 at a mine site in Brush Valley Township, Indiana County. A 37-year-old man was killed when his ATV overturned while he was attempting to climb a 65-degree slope in an area that was posted as closed to all motorized vehicles. A passenger on the ATV escaped serious injury.
A second fatality happened on Oct. 18 in Cass Township, Schuylkill County, at an abandoned mine site in the Duncott area. A 25-year-old man climbed onto the support structure of a conveyor belt system approximately 25 feet above the ground and came in contact with a 23,000-volt power line. He was found in a stream below the conveyor.
This is the lowest number of fatalities involving trespassing at mines and quarries in Pennsylvania since 2001. Although there were no drowning fatalities in quarries for the first time in the past six years, the state recorded an ATV-related fatality for the third consecutive year.
With two fatalities in 2006 and five fatalities in 2005, 29 people have died while trespassing in abandoned mines and quarries in 19 different counties in the commonwealth since January 2000. In fact, more people are killed each year while trespassing in mines and quarries than from accidents at all active mining operations in Pennsylvania. Thirty people died nationwide in abandoned mines in 2006.
To help counter this problem, DEP has partnered with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, other state agencies and the active mining industry to promote the “Stay Out-Stay Alive” campaign. The goal of this national effort is to educate the public about the dangers of abandoned and active mines.
Inspectors from DEP’s Bureau of Mine Safety have been meeting with property owners and local and county emergency responders to have them post signs that warn of the dangers of abandoned sites and to restrict access to these places. In addition, mine rescue personnel visit schools, colleges and community groups to speak about the dangers of abandoned mines and quarries. DEP is also reaching out to hunters and other outdoor recreation groups by including “Stay Out-Stay Alive” materials in Pennsylvania Game Commission publications and in ATV and snowmobile registrations mailed by DCNR.
Pennsylvania has the largest abandoned mine lands problem in the country, with more than 180,000 acres of unmarked shafts, unstable cliffs and waste piles, water-filled pits and abandoned equipment left over from when mining was largely unregulated prior to 1977.
Congress recently reauthorized a 15-year extension to the federal Abandoned Mine Lands Trust Fund that will deliver over $1 billion to Pennsylvania to reclaim the most dangerous abandoned mine sites. DEP is planning to conduct a series of public outreach meetings to involve state and local elected officials, environmental and watershed groups, businesses, foundations and economic development organizations to explore options for addressing the host of problems faced by Pennsylvania’s former mining communities, and to look at opportunities presented by this historic legislation. Governor Rendell’s $625 million Growing Greener II initiative provides significant funding to address a vast array of environmental and public health problems at abandoned mine sites in Pennsylvania. The voter-approved program allocates $60 million to clean up rivers and streams affected by abandoned acid mine drainage and reclaim abandoned mine lands scarred by dangerous highwalls, mine openings and water-filled pits.
For more information on the “Stay Out-Stay Alive” program, visit the department’s Web site at , Keyword: “Stay Out-Stay Alive.”