DEP Secretary Warns Residents to Stay out of AbandonedMines, Quarries

HARRISBURG – With warm weather prompting many people to spend more time outdoors, Department of
Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty today reminded everyone to stay out of abandoned mines and quarries, as these areas pose a significant health and safety risks.

Standing before a gate that had been cut open with wire cutters and since repaired, McGinty launched this year’s “Stay Out, Stay Alive” campaign at the Mon View Mining Corp.’s Mathies Coal Refuse Disposal Area in Carroll Township, Washington County.

“Every year, people — particularly teens and young adults — are injured or killed while trespassing at abandoned mines and quarries,” McGinty said. “These tragedies can be avoided. We urge parents to talk to their children about staying out of these areas.”

Beginning June 1, DEP will air 30-second radio and television spots across the state as part the campaign to underscore the dangers of abandoned mine sites and quarries. The campaign points out that more people are killed each year while trespassing in abandoned mines than from accidents at all other active mining operations in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, 27 people have died trespassing in abandoned mines and quarries in 18 counties over the last six years. Nationwide, 30 people died while trespassing at mines and quarries last year alone.

“There are thousands of sites just like this one across Pennsylvania,” McGinty said. “They are not safe for swimming, four-wheeling or exploring. The dangers are real – and too often, deadly.”

Pennsylvania has the largest abandoned mine lands problem in the country, with more than 180,000 acres of unmarked shafts, unstable cliffs, waste piles, water-filled pits and abandoned equipment remaining from a time prior to 1977 when mining was largely unregulated. DEP has identified more than 5,500 abandoned mine land problem areas in 43 counties.

Mine fires are also a concern because of abandoned mine trespassers. Pennsylvania has approximately 40 active mine fires – nearly all of which were started by burning trash. Most abandoned mine sites show evidence of trash dumping, partying and other activities. These fires represent a particular danger because the fire is consuming the coal that supports the surface, making the ground unstable and prone to collapse without warning.

In addition to abandoned mine lands, quarries also pose a danger due to high rocky cliffs and murky water that prevent swimmers from being able to judge the depth.

“People who trespass at these sites put their lives in danger and those of the people who must respond and perform dangerous rescue operations or
recoveries,” McGinty said.

The “Stay Out, Stay Alive” campaign is a partnership among DEP, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, other state agencies, and the
active mining industry. In addition to the public service media campaign, DEP visits schools and community groups to discuss environmental and public
health hazards.

To broaden the campaign’s reach, DEP distributes information to those receiving licenses from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Fish and Boat
Commission, and has partnered with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to conduct outreach at state parks and the department’s
regional offices. DCNR also includes information on the program with off-road vehicle and snowmobile registrations.

For more information on abandoned mine reclamation, or to view the public service announcement, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, DEP Keyword: “Stay Out Stay Alive.”

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