Grand Canyon National Park Crews Working on Making Abandoned Mines Safer

Old abandoned mines are perfect for bats, but they're not ideal for humans. To protect both, crews at Grand Canyon National Park are getting to work on installing bat gates and warning signs at some old mines within the park's borders.

According to park officials, active mining occurred in the Grand Canyon in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the legacy of past mining activity remains. Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is being used to secure numerous mine openings at the defunct mines, installing bat gates and posting warning signs where appropriate.

The work is scheduled to continue through the end of November 2010 and will secure a total of eight mine features at five separate locations.

Bat-accessible gates will be installed at four mine sites. Bat gates preserve critical habitat for bats in old mine sites while preventing people from entering hazardous areas. At the Grandview Mine, where bat gates were installed in the main mining area in 2009, two shallow adits and a prospecting pit will be permanently backfilled.

“The eight mine features scheduled for closure all present significant hazards to visitors and this project is enabling the park to address this critical safety issue," said Deanna Greco, the park's physical science program manager. "For example, the Tanner-McCormick Mine along the Beamer Trail has pockets of poor air quality with low oxygen levels.”

Grand Canyon Superintendent Steve Martin adds that the work "makes old mining sites safer for human visitation, while also providing habitat for sensitive species of wildlife and preserving cultural resources.”

Before the work started, Park Service officials prepared an environmental assessment examining closures of abandoned mine lands at Coronado National Memorial, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Saguaro National Park, and Grand Canyon. The EA identified the hazards associated with these abandoned mines and proper closure methods that reduce the hazard while being sensitive to wildlife and cultural resources.